Vehicle Video Systems Vary In Recording, Features Offered

Department of Justice might move on ‘Recording System Standard for Law Enforcement’
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Department of Justice might move on ‘Recording System Standard for Law Enforcement’

Department of Justice might move on ‘Recording System Standard for Law Enforcement’

The U.S. Department of Justice plans to validate standards for the testing of police vehicle digital recording systems sometime this year, a DoJ official tells Government Video. The standards for testing police auto recording systems are part of a larger regulation—“Vehicular Digital Multimedia Evidence Recording System Standard for Law Enforcement”— that was drafted in 2010, but has yet to be finalized.

The National Institute of Justice, the DoJ’s research, development and evaluation agency, produced the draft, which can still be adopted, amended or rejected based on the outcome of validation testing, said Joan LaRocca, DoJ public affairs specialist. The draft document requires vehicle-camera digital-recording systems to be equipped with two cameras, two microphones, a digital recorder, a video monitor and an audio monitor.

Those systems must have the option of incorporating at least one additional wireless microphone, and the capability of recording “digital multimedia evidence” and exporting that DME, the draft said. Those systems shall be capable of recording a minimum of two video streams and a minimum of three synchronized audio streams and associated metadata.

The draft document lists performance standards for the recording systems including requiring such systems to be switchable between auto and manual focus; and the primary camera be capable of rotating 90 degrees in either direction from the camera’s front facing position, according to the document. The camera is also required to operate in low light.

In addition, the camera system’s wireless microphones will have a battery life of 15 hours in the passive mode and 3.5 hours in the active mode, the document says. All the microphones are to be capable of capturing sounds greater than, or equal to, 50 dB at about three feet, the draft says.

The draft standards were developed with the input of Panasonic System Communications Company of North America, which produces the Toughbook Arbitrator 360 vehicle-video system, said John Cusick, senior area sales manager for the company. Panasonic was on the NIJ committee that originally worked on the standards and provided NIJ with feedback on their draft copy, he said.

“We’ve sat in on those meetings, we’ve read the document,” Cusick said. “We were so in touch with those guidelines and standards that we actually changed the product (the Arbitrator 360) midstream to meet the requirements of one of the versions,” he added. Nonetheless, Panasonic has been “patiently waiting for their final document.”

It is not known how long it will take for the standards to be issued as a regulation. Nonetheless, a lack of DoJ standards has not prevented manufacturers like Panasonic from producing digital recording systems for police vehicles. Some of those systems are:


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Martel Electronics’ DC3 Digital Cruiser Martel Electronics, of Yorba Linda, Calif., offers its DC3 Digital Cruiser video recorder for law enforcement, which is a “military-grade” recorder that does not require a laptop or mobile-data computer to operate or download video, according to Jason Smith, a manager for Martel.

The unit’s “intuitive” operation is another of its features, according to Smith. The DC3 is just two pieces, and the controls are on the unit’s touchscreen, so agencies “do not have to send anyone to school to learn how to use it,” he added.

The DC3 records onto a 128 GB digital card that can hold 300 hours of recording time, according to Martel. In addition, while recording an incident, an officer can press a button on the touchscreen labeled “Mark,” and the unit will place a mark on the video that will enable viewers to access the marked section quickly, the company says. Officers can also “tag” the recording of each event with an appropriate label, the company notes.

The DC3 also offers “license plate auto zoom,” in which the camera instantly zooms in on a vehicle’s license plate, focuses for three seconds and then zooms out, Martel said.

The unit has a 2.4 GHz digital wireless microphone that automatically begins recording whenever the system is activated; or if an officer uses the microphone, the video system is automatically activated, according to Martel.

A key feature of the DC3 is its wireless video downloading, Smith said. With wireless downloading, a police vehicle can drive into the parking lot at its home station and the DC3 sends a password to the server, Smith said. Once the unit establishes a link with the station’s computer, the DC3 will transfer its video to the computer, and will not stop until all the video has been transferred. “The officer can turn the vehicle off and walk away, but the unit will remain operational and continue to transfer until all the video has been downloaded, at which point it will shut itself down,” he said.


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Panasonic’s Toughbook Arbitrator 360 Like the NIJ seeking input on police vehicle video systems, Panasonic sought feedback from law enforcement agencies before designing its Toughbook Arbitrator 360, Cusick said. In 2006, Panasonic put the question to police agencies, “If you had an in-car video system what would it be?” he added.

“One of the things we learned back then is that everyone understood that video is really evidence management,” he said. “Anything that happens around and in a squad car is going to end up in court, and video from the vehicle has to be managed from an evidentiary perspective,” he added.

Panasonic used that information to create a vehicle-recording system “that would verify that the video hadn’t been tampered with,” he said. “We follow that chain of custody and evidentiary rule that if something is introduced in court, it has to be in the same condition as it was when it was gathered.”

So the whole idea around Arbitrator became evidence management; a system was created to “track and manage the video as evidence, and reproduce it in court,” Cusick said.

To capture video, the Arbitrator can record from five cameras simultaneously, providing a 360-degree view of an incident location, according to Panasonic. The cameras are outfitted with wide-angle lens and have 220-times zoom capability. The unit also has low-light technology, which enables viewing in darkness, and it has 128 GB of storage providing up to 2,592 hours of recording. The unit also has a wireless microphone that will transmit audio up to 1,000 feet from the receiver.


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Pannin Technologies LLC’s Enforcer II Pannin Technologies LLC, headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., offers the Enforcer II In Car Camera Solution, which includes a system called “LiveView” in which the images being recorded can be viewed at a command center, said Kristy Fowler-Ritter, Pannin’s key accounts sales manager.

Key to the Enforcer II is that it is paired with rugged or semi-rugged Dell Computer laptops that act as the monitor, Fowler-Ritter said. The Enforcer II is like a digital video recorder and can record up to four cameras simultaneously, and with LiveView, “officials at headquarters can log onto the vehicle system and view the video direct from the system,” she said.

While the system can record up to four cameras, Pannin provides the front-facing camera and the camera that records inside the vehicle, Fowler-Ritter said. Other cameras that can be added, including a thermal-imaging camera that can be moved around the vehicle and can record images day or night, she said. The thermal-imaging camera can detect suspects who might be hiding in wooded areas, she added.

A camera can also be mounted on the rear license plate of the police vehicle, thereby provide images from behind the officer, Fowler-Ritter said. The Enforcer II also has an automatic GPS vehicle location system, she said.


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Pro-Vision Video Systems’ DVR-704LE Pro-Vision Video Systems of Byron Center, Mich., offers its DVR-704LE, which is a solid-state DVR system that has no moving parts and records images onto a SD card, said Matt VanKirk, Pro-Vision’s communications and graphic design manager.

The DVR-704LE is outfitted with a standard 64 GB card, which provides about 250 hours worth of video, depending on the quality setting, VanKirk said. Pro-Vision also offers a 128 GB card that can provide almost a month of recording depending how much time a vehicle spends on the road.

Taking into account the tight budgets government agencies face, Pro-Vision designed the DVR- 704LE so that a user can acquire “the pieces” of the system as needed. “They do not have to have all the bells and whistles, but they can get what their budgets allow.”

Pro-Vision’s approach of supplying what is needed can apply to the cameras, according to VanKirk. “Not everyone needs a four-camera system if they are only doing quick traffic stops. We can start you out with one camera.” That camera is Pro-Vision’s 704LE, which has a 27-times zoom capability that can provide a clear view of license plate information, according to the company.

In addition, the system is outfitted with a wireless remote microphone system that can record up to four channels of audio, VanKirk said. The system features a lapel link that is attached to a belt system and “can record any conversations between the police office and whoever is pulled over,” he said. The system also enables the placing of microphones in the back of the vehicle to record whatever a suspect might say that can be used as evidence.


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Safety Vision and ICOP’s 20/20W In-Car Video System Safety Vision and ICOP, of Houston, offer the 20/20W In-Car Video System, which both records and streams live video to other first-responder vehicles and to headquarters, said Melissa Foteh, the company’s marketing manager on the ICOP system.

The 20/20W video system operates up to three cameras and audio sources and records up to two cameras simultaneously, according to Foteh. The system records to a 40 GB vehicle-grade, removable hard drive or 32 GB solid-state drive in a shock-resistant case, providing up to 16 hours of real-time recording in high-resolution mode. The system also has a pre-event video feature that will record for 60 seconds.

In addition, the system has an automatically activated, officer-worn microphone that uses a 900 MHz transceiver that can send a signal over 2,000 feet from the vehicle, according to Foteh. The unit is also equipped with a built-in GPS that provides continuous latitude/longitude information, will mark event locations and transmit GPS data, she said.



Martel Electronics:


Pannin Technologies LLC:

Pro-Vision Video Systems:

Safety Vision: