Street-wise products for the beat

Technology for street patrol: Wireless communication, digital video recording and protection from the elements

     New technology is making it easier to patrol without a cruiser. From wireless communications integrated with audio/video equipment, to body-worn cameras, to fabrics that offer protection from the elements and weapons, six new offerings stand to make bicycle and foot beats safer and more cost-effective.

Wireless a/v recording

     The Seattle Police Department made headlines last year when it put a limited number of wearable wireless video cameras on patrol officers. Although the department has curtailed testing — the Seattle Police Officers' Guild objected to not having approved the testing — the cameras' maker, Seattle-based VIEVU LLC, continues to sell to both U.S.-based and foreign police departments.

     The patent-pending PVR-LE 2 improves on the original PVR-LE by providing enhanced low light capability and image quality. The camera lens itself has a 71-degree field of view. Four gigabytes (GB) of memory allow for up to four hours of audio/video recording time at 30 frames per second; video resolution is color VGA 640x480. The bright green coloration around the lens tells subjects they're being recorded, and when the camera isn't in use a black lens cover conceals the green.

     Weighing in at three and a half ounces and sized about the same as a pager, the lightweight PVR-LE 2 neither interferes with other electronics nor other body-worn tools. It secures to windshields or an officer's uniform, and is built to withstand physical confrontations. In addition, its ruggedized case meets IPX 5 waterproofing standards.

     VIEVU's cameras don't only record incidents for internal use, however. The companion VERIPATROL software (compatible with Windows 2000, XP and Vista) also authenticates video evidence for use in court. A chain of evidence log tracks who accesses the video and what they do with it, while the camera case itself is tamperproof. Officers cannot access much less edit the video; only department-assigned software administrators can do that.

     "If a copy is needed for court, the administrator can copy a video file to a disk," says VIEVU Marketing Director Heidi Traverso. "Any and all actions taken on a video file are updated in the [software's] master log, [which] shows who accessed the file and what they did with it." And, if for some reason anyone outside of the agency obtains the camera, she adds, "The video files cannot be viewed or downloaded."

     Digital Ally, based in Overland Park (Kansas), also offers products that benefit foot or bike patrol officers: Its FirstVu body-worn camera and the DVM-750 in-car system record officers' actions even when they are out of cruiser range.

     The DVM-750 replaces a cruiser's factory-installed rearview mirror. Its ultra-bright and sunlight-visible screen is invisible when not in use. The tiny camera mounts beside the mirror and features high resolution D1 (720x480) video with h.264 codec, an improved version of MPEG 4. It records to an 8GB solid state memory card or larger.

     The DVM-750 records audio to on-board memory — even when the officer-worn wireless VoiceVault microphone is out of camera range. "The VoiceVault has a built-in digital audio recorder," says Ken McCoy, Digital Ally's vice president of sales and marketing, "so if the transmitter goes out of range, [VoiceVault] automatically senses this and starts recording, storing it on the digital voice recorder." The wearer can be up to one mile away, or even in a building.

     Meanwhile, the FirstVu single wireless unit that attaches to an officer's uniform, has many of the same features as the DVM series. It comes standard with a 2GB solid state memory card, and its lithium polymer battery enables up to five hours of hi-res video recording. In "covert" mode, FirstVu vibrates rather than using LED indicator lights, and can switch from LED to infrared illumination.

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