There are extra eyes on the streets of Sandy Springs.
The Sandy Springs Police Department is testing wearable video camera systems through a partnership with TASER. Nine patrol officers now are sporting the equipment, called the TASER AXON, and collecting video from every incident they encounter.
“It’s really proactive patrol,” said Officer Jamal Mayberry, one of the cops testing the new gear. “By having a system like this, you can show people a birds-eye view.”
Although all patrol cars in the city are equipped with in-car video cameras, the recording is limited to the view from the windshield. The TASER AXON offers a real-time look at what the officer sees. The camera is worn on the officer’s head.
“This allows you to go inside the house, through the woods, to the car window,” said Lt. David Roskind. “You are getting the body language, the verbal language of the other person.”
The cameras cost $4,000 to $6,000 each, Roskind said, but the city of Sandy Springs was loaned the equipment to give feedback about the product to TASER for future development. The city is looking, in the next year or two, to purchase the cameras for all its patrol, crime suppression and SWAT officers.
The camera system consists of three pieces that are worn on the police officer’s body. The camera is worn behind the ears, much like putting on a pair of sunglasses backwards. Video is recorded at the same level as the officer’s eyes.
“You are seeing it how he sees it,” Roskind said. “This is recording on the officer where it’s happening. He’s reacting to what you see in the camera.”
There is a recording device that sits on the officer’s belt, which is about the size of a GPS device and holds 12 hours of video.
“It’s constantly recording like a TiVo,” Officer Chris Roth said as he flipped the device open with his hands.
The device also can map an officer’s location, making it a useful tool for foot patrols.
“We will see [the officer] on a Google map and know the direction of travel,” Roskind said.
The officer double clicks a small device on his chest, which acts as a remote control, to begin recording. Otherwise, the device will continually record 30 seconds of video and tape over old footage.
“The officer has to activate it for every citizen contact or event,” Roskind said. “They are required to record every event.”
The video is stored in a database, which allows people to query the type of incident such as DUIs.
Roskind said supervisors will randomly review five to 10 percent of the videos to ensure officers are properly doing their job.
The camera system also creates video that is useful in the courtroom, especially in cases where citizens make complaints against officers.
Mayberry called the equipment his “insurance policy.”
“It’s never their word against yours if you’ve got the video,” Roth said.
Roskind said the next generation of the TASER AXON, which is the one the city will purchase, will allow real-time video streaming. He hopes to integrate the technology with ChatComm, the city’s 911 center it runs with Johns Creek.
“That technology is still in development right now,” Roskind said.