Sunday, November 11, 2007

"New Police Technology Offers Bird's Eye View"


Pistol Cam Fits on Gun Barrel and Records as Soon as It Is Removed From Holster

A digital camera that's attached to the barrel of a gun and starts recording when an officer draws his or her weapon is allowing law enforcement officials to go high-tech in their hunts.

The "Pistol Cam," which acts as extra eyes for any officer caught in a confrontation, currently is only used in Orange County, N.Y. More are expected to end up in police stations around the country during the next few years.

"This allows us the opportunity to review shooting incidents, unlawful use of force incidents and hopefully exonerate the member that's involved in the shooting. It also ensures the public the police are not overstepping their boundaries," said Orange County Sheriff's Office Capt. Dennis Barry.

The camera can catch things like a bullet traveling 1,000 mph from a gun barrel, and the founder of the company that makes the device said it's like an airplane black box because it can't be tampered with by the officer.

The Pistol Cam, which was originally created to videotape animals while hunting, is part of a large move toward more transparency in law enforcement. Dashboard camera videos aboard police cruisers have been popular for years, and now some officers even carry Tasers with cameras.

"You are going to be able to see that I was giving somebody lawful commands. You are going to be able to see them in an … angry stance, emotionally disturbed," said Marcus Martin, of the Las Vegas Metro Police Department, which uses Tasers with cameras.

Police hope the technology will help prevent confusion about what really happens during arrests and stops and help citizen feel more secure having everything caught on tape.

They hope to avoid high-profile cases like the one earlier this year when a University of Florida student was Tasered after asking persistent questions to Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. The case gained national attention as the victim yelled out, "Don't Tase me, bro," as a camera recorded the incident.

But privacy advocates worry the new crime-fighting technologies have the potential to cross the line.

"The cameras have the potential to be a good thing, but only if the recordings are shared with the public on request," said Gary Peck of the American Civil Liberties Union.

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