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Palo Alto police using integrated video system for more intelligence

In an effort to provide its officers with better, more actionable information while on patrol, the Palo Alto, California police department has equipped its cruisers with a multi-camera system that captures and records more than the standard dashboard camera. CBS News reported that the systems offer a panoramic view of the area around a cruiser, providing better situational awareness both during and after a shift. Palo Alto police officer Zac Perron told CBS News that the new system, installed into all patrol cars in the department, is a significant improvement.

"We've got now five cameras in every regular beat officer's patrol car that captures ... a 270-degree field of view around the car," Perron said.

Use after the fact
As compared to the dashboard cameras commonly used in police cars, the multi-camera system deployed in Palo Alto offers some unique benefits. For example, the footage is recorded and stored for 40 hours after initial filming. This gives officers an approximate two-day window where they can go back and check footage if they passed by a person, object or area later found to be significant to an incident or investigation. The cameras in the system remain on at all times during a shift. The continuous use of the camera is specifically geared toward preserving evidence and capturing more of it while on patrol, Perron told CBS News. From an organizational perspective, the always-on system also helps maintain officer accountability.

Potential for more cameras
Local news source Palo Alto Online reported that the department is also considering the widespread adoption of body cameras as a way to further collect evidence and improve the situational awareness of police. The local department has already tested such cameras in an initial trial and is considering adopting them wholesale among officers. A number of police forces in the area around Palo Alto are already using body cameras, and the county sheriff is also considering a trial program to test effectiveness.

Keeping officers safe and aware
The use of additional cameras is a hot topic for police departments across the country, but they aren't the only type of technology that can boost performance and keep officers safer and more aware while on the streets. Beyond cameras, departments have to consider options for better sharing and storage of information, as well as pathways to distribute that data to officers safely and effectively.


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