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Police transparency and cutting-edge gear took the virtual spotlight this spring during Motorola Solutions and PoliceOne Webinar, How to build a successful BWC (body-worn camera) program for your agency.

The multi-media presentation was streamed live by PoliceOne.com in April 2017, inviting viewers to discuss the logistics, challenges, and benefits of implementing a BWC program. It was hosted by Doug Wyllie, PoliceOne editor, alongside Ret. Lt. Colonel Tom Miller, Michigan State Police and Motorola Solution's Smart Public Safety Solutions advisor; and Div. Chief Robert Sullenberger with the Boulder Colorado's County Sheriff's Office, who shared his own BWC program case study.

“We've always been transparent with our community and we've always had a high degree of public trust. After the incident in Ferguson, however, community expectations begin to increase and we saw that as an opportunity to move forward with a body camera program,” he said.

That incident took place on August 9, 2014, when 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot by former St. Louis police officer Michael Brown, effectively launching a nation-wide debate on police accountability. Said Wyllie, “It's my contention that had there been a body worn camera on Darren Wilson, and had that video footage been released in a timely and responsible fashion, Ferguson would not have burned to the ground … we would have known much more clearly and quickly the truth of that [situation].”

Since that event, he added, public demand for police transparency has swelled to an all-time high.

BWCs address that demand by providing an unbiased “third-party” perspective of events, thereby protecting agencies against litigation, generating vital evidence, and building public trust.

Implementing a BWC program, however, is not without its challenges. From data management and policy, to chain of custody and privacy concerns, agencies have much to consider. Sullenberger addressed these during his account of introducing a BWC program to his Boulder, Colorado agency.

According to Sullenberger, step one was conducting a year of research and an exhaustive policy-making process that included input from agency reps and judicial partners. This was followed by discussions on what systems and capabilities would be required to store, manage, and share footage from BWCs; and what body cam solutions would be the best fit for officers.

“We ended up going with the Motorola body cam for several reasons. It has a Bluetooth connection to our radios, which eliminated wires; all the functions are built into one device, which means less equipment for officers to wear; and it has Wi-Fi upload capability, which saves time for officers,” he recalled.

The team was also drawn to Motorola Solutions’ CommandCentral Vault digital evidence management system, which provides a secure cloud-based system that could handle the agency's back-end data management requirements.

Sullenberger emphasized that while BWCs are not a “magic bullet” for building public trust, they are a critical tool. Moving ahead, his next steps are to continue rolling out his agency's 145 BWCs in waves and invite both the press and public to see the technology first hand at an upcoming event.

Tom Miller followed Sullenberger's case study with further insights on the legal issues, logistics, and best practices related to setting up a BWC program. He stressed the importance of developing a BWC policy prior to the RFP process and for agency to adopt solutions that leverage existing investments, noting, “We were a little late to the market as it relates to body worn video, but that gave us an opportunity to listen to our customers who were telling us they wanted a solution that mitigates the need to put more equipment on their officers bodies. So we provided an integrated body camera solution that takes the existing remote speaker microphone and converts it to a body cam remote speaker mic – an all in one solution.”

Miller hinted at future advancements in data storage, analytics, and field applications, before opening the floor to questions. After the hour was up, viewers signed off with better knowledge of BWCs, a greater appreciation for their value in strengthening public trust, and insights into “going live” with their own BWC programs.

The webinar is available online at PoliceOne.com.

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