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Instant Replays In Police Work?

The media is rife with hot-blooded comments from people weighing in on the recent controversial call made by the fill-in referees in the Green Bay Packers versus Seattle Seahawks football game. The instant replay clearly showed the ball being caught in the air by the Green Bay defender, yet the officials on the field said the Seattle receiver made the catch. Let’s go to the tape . . .

Clearly, people see things differently. Any cop who has responded to a bank robbery and interviewed more than one of the tellers, has seen how unreliable people’s memories can sometimes be. When trying to put out a flash message on a wanted subject, a quick canvass of bank employees leads to more of a general, ambiguous description, rather than a definitive one. If three employees are asked about the wanted subject’s appearance, three disparate versions of the same person will likely emerge. A review of the bank’s surveillance cameras is the only way to dial down and get an accurate account of what the bad guy looked like.

It’s been said that the camera never lies. With that in mind, Mesa, Arizona Police Chief, Frank Milstead, decided that his department might utilize video footage in their department’s daily activities. Dashboard cameras have been in use for about 20 years. Those devices have revolutionized the way police departments have adjusted their training to better safeguard their officers and the public. Car stop protocols in particular, have been modified as a direct result of the footage captured by dash cams.

That said, why not use similar recording devices on the officers themselves? Kind of a “cop cam,” if you will. That’s exactly what the Mesa P.D. is doing. According to an online article on, MPD has decided to equip 50 of its officers with a tiny video recording device that can be attached to the officers’ uniform, the brim of a cap, or even on a pair of glasses.

Chief Milstead’s stated goal for using the cameras is to quickly resolve any complaints against his men and women, as well as providing prosecutors with additional evidence in court.

Taking photos and recording police activity is nothing new. In fact, it’s becoming the norm. It seems everyone has a camera at the ready, whether it’s an actual camera or a cell phone. That begs the question: why not have the police film themselves during incidents, thus being able to refute any disingenuous allegations about their behavior?

The new technology comes from Taser, and is called Axon Flex. It’s a mere 3 ½ inches in length and clips on just about any piece of clothing. It also has a low light capability, which according to Taser, matches the retina of the human eye with its ability to focus at night. Makes sense, since many critical incidents take place during the night shift. The video footage is captured on a hard drive and is tamper proof. In addition, anyone viewing the footage must be identified, thus keeping an evidentiary chain of custody log for court purposes.

Instant replays are the technology de jour, everyone is using them, from college sports to the pros. People on the street are using their camera phones to record many police/citizen interactions. Often times these recordings only show a snippet of the entire event. Therefore, why not use our own recording device to ensure we capture the entire incident, not just bits and pieces of it from a citizen’s device? That way, whenever a “he said, she said” dispute arises, we just go to the tape.

Stay safe, Brothers and Sisters!


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About The Author:

John M. Wills spent 33 years in law enforcement as a Chicago Police Officer and FBI Special Agent (Ret). He is a Freelance Writer and Speaker whose third book, TARGETED, is now available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Contact John through his website: