The First Vu on-officer camera system
Smaller, digital and more capable than ever before: These terms nicely sum up the advancing state of "video on patrol" technology.
by James Careless
Gone are the unreliable consumer-grade VCRs and low-resolution analog cameras that made past police video problematic and grainy. In their place are sophisticated, smarter products that do a much better job.
Size is always an issue in patrol cars; mainly because space is so limited. With this reality in mind, Digital Ally Inc. has done its best to go very, very small.
Specifically, Digital Ally's DVM-750 Digital In-Car Video System incorporates all of its monitor and control functions in a special rearview mirror. That's right: A 3.5-inch 1000 NITS 'Ultra Bright' monitor is built into the DVM-750's Digital Video Mirror. It is covered in oneway glass; turn the monitor off and all you see is the reflection of the back window.
The unit is connected to the small window-mounted 35X optical zoom camera, which receives power from wires hidden in the roof panel. The result is a very small, very clean and yet highly functional video system that takes up a minimum of cabin space.
"The DVM-750 is a user-friendly system that can not only be automated, but positioned so that it doesn't distract drivers," said Digital Ally CEO Stanton E. Ross. In addition, the DVM-750's Digital Video Mirror comes with a covert rear seat camera (hidden in the mirror) with infrared LEDs (for nonvisible spectrum illumination) and a 900 MHz WiFi link for offloading recorded audio/video from the unit's Compact Flash memory into a nearby police server. The system comes with a VoiceVault advanced wireless microphone, GPS module with built-in antenna and location marking, and VideoManager II software.
One new feature: When connected to the wireless Web via the Digital Video Mirror's wireless link (and an in-car transceiver to cover long distances), the mirror can display streaming video from other locations.
Digital Ally's tools are cycle-ready. GO UNCOMPROMISING
Prosecutor, based in Humble, Texas, doesn't believe in putting monitors in rearview mirrors. Instead, its Prosecutor video display is a small LCD panel that folds down from a control panel. This panel is mounted just above the top center of the front windshield, for easy access without obstructing the view. The front-facing camera is a day/night LG LVC-313HM with 27X optical/10X digital auto zoom. Recording is captured using either a trunk-mounted digital video recorder or special ruggedized VCR.
"Trends have been for smaller, less expensive and less capable digital systems," said John Harrison, the company's president and owner. "Prosecutor of Texas has not followed this bandwagon as feedback on these systems has identified compromised reliability, security and too short of recording time‚Äîall of which translates to more time from the officer's daily shift schedule for complying with procedural standards."
Instead, Prosecutor has opted for secure, tamper-free and rugged trunk-mounted systems.
"We utilize high capacity hard drive storage media not requiring any external and expendable DVD discs, SD cards or flash drives," Harrison said. "Using patrol-average event recording times, our 750-hour recording capacity would allow up to six months of video archiving in the patrol vehicle trunk."
Prosecutor has also added extra capabilities to its in-car video system, including a wireless 802.11 link for remote viewing and downloading; ticket printing software; and MPEG-4 video compression.
SMALL AND PORTABLE
For its part, Digital Ally believes that going small doesn't mean compromising quality. This is why the company has pushed the envelope further, by building a video capture/recording system into a rugged aluminum-encased patrol flashlight.
"Our Digital Video Flashlight lets officers record video and audio evidence away from the car," said Ross. "Yet it is entirely covert, because the system is integrated into a fully-functioning law enforcement-style flashlight."
Safety Vision PR4C kit The Digital Video Flashlight operates using a simple on-off button, and can record up to eight hours of video on solid-state memory. (Its rechargeable lithium battery can run for 16 hours.) The unit also has a 60-second video pre-roll activated whenever the camera's power is turned on. As soon as you hit the Record button, the previous 60 seconds are transferred from an onboard buffer to its Solid State memory.
Many officers have used this tool to shoot evidence during DUI stops and drug busts, Ross said. They also find it useful for extending recording while on foot.
For those wanting a different portable solution, Digital Ally makes a wearable video camera. The FirstVu is a wearable device that comes with one-button recording, built-in infrared lighting LEDs for night use, a built-in microphone and back-mounted LCD display. With the FirstVu, everything an officer does and deals with can be recorded, for undisputable evidence after the fact. The FirstVu allows users to access evidence through either a removable micro SD card or by using USB 2.0 to download it from the device's secure internal memory.
Government Video recently profiled Digital Safety Technologies (DST) DP-2 DigitalPatroller system (see December 2009 issue). However it is worth recapping the capabilities of the DP-2, because they are substantial. They include the ability to support and record up to four camera feeds simultaneously on the DP-2's truck-mounted DVR (both outside-looking visible light and rear seat daylight/infrared prisoner surveillance cameras); a dash-mounted 4.5- inch LCD display; and officer-wearable wireless microphones which can trigger recordings at a range of 1500 feet away.
Safety Vision's PatrolRecorder 4C is a compact, mobile digital video Recorder (MDVR) that supports four cameras. This MDVR digitally records video on a mobile-rated removable 2.5-inch hard drive. The 4C can transfer data manually by removing the hard drive and plugging it into a network-connected docking station or can be transferred wirelessly with Wi-Fi, leaving the hard drive in place.
The PatrolRecorder 4C comes with GPS mapping, speed tracking and recording. The MDVR viewer software displays a map indicating where the video was recorded during playback. One nice feature: The 4C can playback while recording, saving time while in the car.
Digital Safety Technologies and Safety Vision both make a full range of accessories for the PatrolRecorder 4C, allowing users to source an entire in-car video solution from either company.