New cameras called "future of police work"

POSTED: 11:48 AM PST Dec 24, 2013    UPDATED: 12:40 AM PST Nov 05, 2013 

The evolution of police cameras continues.  The dash cam forever changed the way we view police chases giving us a first-hand recording of what officers see and do.  Now, the technology's taking the police force into the next generation.  "It helps to hold law enforcement officers accountable," said Sergeant Robert Pickowitz from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.  "it also helps to provide us invaluable information when we're conducting our investigations." 

The new cameras come from a company called Vievu.  Each camera is battery-powered and can record 4 to 6 hours at a time.  It's worn by members of the sheriff's department, most often the traffic unit.  "We all realize that during a vehicle stop, there's a lot of hardworking good people out there," said Sgt. Pickowitz.  "When they commit a violation, it's a very emotional moment."

Sometimes, those emotions can lead people to believe officers mistreat them.  The new camera helps to keep both sides honest.  During any routine stop, the officer immediately flips open the camera, clipped near the chest, to start recording.  Everything from the walk to the vehicle to the first interaction with the driver is recorded and cannot be tampered with.  "Once it's recorded, we cannot erase them," said Sgt. Pickowitz.  "And once they're downloaded into our system, it's there so we can retrieve it for any criminal cases." 

Deputy Pierre Palmer, a motorcycle officer in La Quinta says the cameras have cut down on complaints from drivers.  He says at first, the complaints came from the officers themselves.  "Why do you have to wear it?" Palmer asked.  "Is it big brother trying to watch you?  Do people not believe what you're trying to do? So, you get kind of skeptical about it." 

The skepticism grew to trusting the technology and quickly became part of his routine.  Everyday he puts on his uniform, utility belt, tests his taser, then clips on his camera.  "it's something that I, on any day, would not go without," said Deputy Palmer.  It's a part of me and something that I believe we should all have." 

Each camera costs about $1,000 to $1,500.  Different agencies pay for them in various ways.  Most receive grants from federal and local governments to cover the expense.  Either way, officers say, it's worth the price of keeping them on the streets instead of sorting out discrepancies.  "I think in the long run, it'll save the department a lot of money," said Deputy Palmer.  "Whatever it may be, I'm all for it." 

Vievu's website says it's trusted by more than 3,000 police agencies around the world.  The success of the new technology is even peaking the interest of some of our local police departments.  "I think it's a natural progression in policing and in order to be in tune with these contemporary issues, it's an area we need to look at," said Chief Richard Twiss from the Indio police department.