The Importance of Treating Body Camera Footage as Evidence

During an investigation, evidence is often collected. This evidence, in most cases, can be the defining factor in determining the suspect’s identity and securing a conviction. Therefore, extra precautions must be taken when collecting physical evidence. We routinely secure the crime scene, wear gloves when handling evidence, document and photograph the scene and finally secure the evidence in a location designated for storage.

The same attention to detail and care should be applied to digital evidence. The video and audio footage collected from the police officer’s body-worn camera can be more critical and impactful to an agency than their most important investigation.

Why should body camera footage be treated in the same manner as physical evidence?

Once an officer answers a CAD call and arrives at the scene, their body camera acts as an impartial witness. It is not uncommon that details missed during an initial investigation are observed when reviewing footage from an incident or investigation.

“It [BodyWorn] is that unblinking eye that gives us a true retrospective look at, the real record of what happened,” said Clay Campbell, Retired Police Officer, Houston PD, and Business Manager, Utility, Inc.

BodyWorn allows an officer to focus on doing their job, while simultaneously collecting evidence and storing it in real-time. The BodyWorn automatically activated as an officer is dispatched to a call for service based on the department’s policy, ensuring that video is recorded during every incident.

Are body cameras an effective policing tool?

The digital evidence captured by an officer’s body camera can be used in a multitude of ways. This record of events can be reviewed immediately after recording for accurate report writing, obtaining changes from the district attorney’s office, addressing a citizen complaint, and training purposes. It is an invaluable tool for capturing events as they unfold to give the officer insight into moments that are too dynamic to recount independently accurately.

The BodyWorn ecosystem serves as a management tool that treats body camera footage as digital evidence by encrypting it and immediately securing it as evidence. In the AvailWeb platform, agencies can organize videos collected by location, date, time, and much more. Up to 4 videos can be played back synced and watched simultaneously. The collection of GPS metadata is used to display a bread crumb trail for the duration of a recording of all the officer and vehicle movements. All of this digital evidence can be shared throughout divisions in the department, with proper access rights, or with the district attorney’s office.

Why is evidence collected from body cameras vital for law enforcement?

Beyond the benefits of using video footage as an effective policing tool, it is vital to ensure trust and transparency with the community they serve. This gives law enforcement the ability to demonstrate, in detail, the circumstances surrounding a given incident. The automated Policy-Based triggers in the BodyWorn technology ensure that this digital evidence is collected in situations where the absence of if it could damage police-community relations.

The use of body cameras, “is the only opportunity we have to give true transparency and validate that trust between the community and law enforcement,” Campbell said.

Body cameras act as a stable bridge between law enforcement and the community. Therefore, elevating the collection of digital evidence from body cameras to the same standards as the physical evidence is no longer an option; it is imperative.