The New York Police Department ordered the shelving of 3,000 units of its newest body camera model after one burst into flames this week. An officer in Staten Island saw smoke coming from his camera and unplugged it from its charger. No one was injured, but the department started an investigation to assess battery safety. Officers began using the Vievu LE5 model, which accounts for about one-fifth of all cameras owned by the department, in August.
For now, officers who have other models of cameras will continue to wear them. But differences in recording software between the models create certain drawbacks.
NYPD Deputy Commissioner Jessica Tisch said pulling the devices means the department may not be able to equip the majority of its officers—especially those on patrol, transit, and housing beats—with body cameras by year’s end. She said the cameras are “a big part of the agency’s commitment to building trust with the community.”
Mount Pleasant, S.C., Senior Police Officer David Ivey told me body cameras are “excellent technology for police.” In his department, most nondesk staff have worn Vievu LE-3 body cameras since mid-2015, but they will soon be replaced with WatchGuard devices. He said the public is right to want body cameras for holding police accountable, and they also help officers avoid spurious accusations.
“In April, during a search warrant case, a young man accused me of unnecessary use of force, but the bodycam showed otherwise,” Ivey said. The family also saw the video and agreed that the allegations were unfounded.
Besides emergency or crisis events, Ivey said a police body camera is useful during investigations: “I flip it on during interviews to help me in filing reports and keeping accurate.” —R.H.