A two hour presentation to the Board of Estimate and Taxation by representatives of Axon, took place Thursday.
Axon was previously named Taser International because its initial product was a line of electroshock weapons.
Today, the Arizona based company develops technology products including body cameras for police, tasers, patrol car video systems, and even surveillance drones.
Axon’s Josh Bowling said the company is on its fifth generation of body cameras and have already partner with thousands of agencies worldwide including NYPD and Hartford Police Dept, and over has over 300,000 body cameras in the field.
The agencies range from small departments with as few as 27 officers to Metro London police, with 40,000 officers who don’t carry lethal weapons, but instead carry tasers and wear body cams.
Axon’s “Evidence.com” is a digital management system they license to police agencies, but also to prosecutors’ offices including Westchester County.
BET questions touched on issues of privacy and FOIA requests, costs, who would be responsible for training police in their use and what manpower would be required at GPD to manage the program.
Matthew Karsten, an engineer at Axon, reviewed information about the camera, its software, and data storage.
The cameras each contain a lens, battery, embedded GPS, 2 SIM chips and operate on both AT&T and Verizon networks, which Karsten said offer the best coverage in the country.
The cameras are tamper proof as well.
“If they did (tamper), there’s nothing they could do with it without software,” Karsten said.
With the embedded GPS an officer can map a foot chase.
There is a large button over the lens, which means that if an officer is wearing gloves in the winter time or has a critical incident, he or she simply double presses the button to activate the camera. To deactivate it the officer simply presses and holds it down. Because of the double-press feature the camera can’t be turned on by mistake when a person it putting on a seatbelt, for example.
The camera has a volume control and a marker button that can be tapped to mark a video in a particular moment such as when a piece of evidence is collected.
The camera has a displays that shows whether it’s in ready or recording state, as well as battery status.
There are 27 different mounting options, including one for a pocket and one to attach to a detective’s button down collar.
The batteries are guaranteed to stay charged for a minimum of 12 hours, which will last throughout an officer’s shift.
Karsten said the cameras have a “rugged wearability” and have not failed despite winding up in a lake or being hit by a bullet.
Karsten said Axon cameras simply do not get breeched.
“We’ve never been breeched,” he said. “We have full time team in security operations center. When we see someone trying to hack into the system, we can notify the agency.”
Further he said Axon offers a pre-event buffer which can be set up to two minutes before an event to capture activities that occur prior to the officer activating the event mode.
The 5th generation cameras now work well in low light situations.
“We want it to show what the officer saw during the incident,” he said, sharing examples of the video clarity including a screenshot take from a video.
The body cams have four built in microphones.
“It’s like noise cancellation within a headset,” he said.
The software makes it possible to redact other faces or children in a video quickly in order to release the photo or video for an FOIA request or to get it out to the public quickly, for example in the case of a missing person.
“You can click on a video and find all the faces in it and redact them all,” Karsten said, adding, “In Chicago there were a couple incidents they could get their video back quickly and redact quickly and and have gotten it out to the public and it’s prevented protests.”
There is another button on the camera that allows an officer to speak into it following an incident before proceeding to another call. The software has a transcription feature which makes it possible to cut and paste a transcription directly into a police report at the end of a shift.
There is also a ‘find my camera’ feature so that even if a camera is lost in the snow or stuck on the magnet of a snowplow it can be retrieved.
The contract for the body cams run for five years, at which time both cameras and docks are replaced with brand new ones. The hardware is on a 2-1/2 year replacement cycle, and Axon supplies each agency with spare cameras to use as backups.
BET member Karen Fassuliotis asked how many police or personnel are necessary to manage the equipment? Karsten said that would vary depending on the number of FOIA requests an agency expects to receive.
There is a support representative assigned to each agency.
There are options for data storage packages, though Karsten recommended having unlimited data, and that was included in the original the quote in fall 2019.
The request is for $310,022 for 160 police body cameras and other equipment.
BET chair Mike Mason noted town officials save their emails indefinitely.
After talking about body cameras, Karsten talked about a variety of software Axon products and services.
‘Citizen for Communities’ allows agencies to creates a public portals where citizens or businesses can submit evidence. Police can relay the portal to the public via social media or news agencies. People can log in from a phone or computer and upload information with or without their name and contact information.
Axon ‘Citizen for Officers’ allows officers to send out individual invites through text or email to witnesses directly from Axon Capture or Evidence.com.
The resident or business can receive a link and through a couple of button clicks that allows them to upload the video or picture without any other interaction with the officer. This means police don’t have to confiscate cell phones.
They also offer a Fleet System with cameras for patrol cars that have rear facing cameras so the officer driving doesn’t have to turn around to see if the prisoner is trying to hurt himself or has a weapon. The front facing cameras have a zoom feature to capture license plates.
Karsten said Greenwich Police could use the system to get “hot lists” of stolen vehicles by integrating with NCIC or Amber Alerts for the make and model of a driver with an abducted child, for example.
As for the patrol car fleet camera options, Captain Robert Berry explained the initial plan is to purchase body worn cameras.
“And then we’ll look at other options down the road,” he said. “With contemporary events the urgency is on the body worn cameras.”
“And it’ll depend on that happens today in the legislature,” he added, referring to Thursday’s special session of the General Assembly that included a bill on police reform.
BET chair Mike Mason said the board’s two liaison will work with Greenwich police and Axon to finalize the quote and that the next step would be for the request to go before the RTM in September.
Chief Heavey said his department had been studying body cameras for many years.
“I think it’s an important part of 21st century policing and there’s going to be state legislation that this program will meet, if not exceed,” he said. “I think it’s a positive thing.”
“I think this is fantastic,” Mason said. “There is enlightenment about how far this can go …It helps us with a more long range plan.”