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A Second Set of Eyes

In-car video systems do what you can’t: record on-shift incidents for posterity…and the courts.

May 01, 2005  |  by - Also by this author

Police agencies have come to depend on in-car video systems to capture each shift on camera. Not only do these devices provide a way to document events that take place in and around patrol cars, but new technology makes the recorded proof even more ironclad when scrutinized by defense attorneys and jury members.

In court, footage from in-car video has been used to successfully prosecute suspects whose actions were caught on camera and to clear the names of officers who were falsely accused of assault.

Just knowing cameras are in place can comfort officers on the job and keep wary suspects in check. Regardless of the situation, with in-car video you have some legal backup courtesy of a high-tech eyewitness, even without a uniformed partner on patrol with you.

Cisco Systems

Cisco’s new Rugged Enclosure for its 3200 series in-car video system is so new there were no photographs available at press time. But the company’s 3200 Series routers are ruggedized themselves and work with most any system, as well as Cisco IOS software, to provide secure data, voice, and video communications across both wireless and wired networks. Flexible and compact, the routers easily conform to confined spaces in cars as they expand the IP network to reach as many officers in the field as possible.

The overall 3200 series system provides standards-based connectivity for a wide range of LAN- and WAN-wired or wireless links, including integrated 802.11b/g wireless capabilities. Wireless access is always on, so there’s no break in usage. The system can even be operated remotely for added flexibility.

There’s also room to expand, as Cisco’s system allows for upgrades to accommodate future wireless technologies.

Decatur Electronics

Although better known for radar speed measurement products, Decatur Electronics also manufactures traffic safety products and in-car video recording systems. Gemini, Decatur Electronics’ digital in-car video system, was designed to be durable.

Completely housed in a rugged console in the overhead area of a patrol car, the system includes a robust hard drive, digital video recorder, 4.75-inch touchscreen monitor, and a Sony camera.

Additional features include automatic deletion settings and PreVu recording for capturing data even before the officer knows it’s needed.

Gemini in-car equipment can also be used with Decatur’s Gemini Evidence Manager (GEM), a solution for efficient archiving and fast searching. It includes a user-friendly software package and dedicated hardware components.

International Police

VisionHawk from International Police Technologies (IPT) was designed to be easy to install, easy to use, and unobtrusive. The digital in-car video system features a low-profile overhead module that doesn’t get in the way of doing the job, while the backlit control panel makes operating the system easy even at night.

The system’s pre-event recording captures up to one minute of video and audio on front and rear cameras. The system records up to 40 hours of video on a 40GB drive and thousands of hours of background record time.

Two channels record video simultaneously, although the cameras can also be operated independently of each other.

Kustom Signals

Digital Eyewitness NXT was so named because it’s the “next” generation of the company’s digital in-car video offerings, with flexibility built into its design.
Agencies can choose what features and options they want to include and then add others down the line.

The system’s open architecture design allows users to integrate almost anything that can be imagined. It features serial ports, USB 2.0 ports, and VGA, keyboard, and mouse ports. Just a few of the capabilities supported are the integration of a mobile data computer, allowing the computer to control the system and act as its monitor; the ability to stream video wirelessly to and from the car; and the ability to send and receive still images wirelessly, such as suspect or Amber Alert pictures.

The NXT offers three compression standards: MPEG1, MPEG2, and MPEG4. The compression is user-selectable, so it can be changed even after the systems are installed. For each compression standard, the NXT offers the flexibility of three recording rates, Good/Better/Best, offering you even more control over the video quality/storage relationship.

The Digital Eyewitness NXT offers wireless or hard-wired media transfer. The hard-wired file transfer involves connecting a LAN cable to the in-car system while parked in a designated download location. At the end of a shift, the officer connects a Gigabyte ethernet cable to the car and the files transfer automatically. Wireless transfer begins automatically as soon as the patrol car pulls into the station parking lot.

Martel Electronics

My Digital Partner from Martel Electronics both records video and snaps digital still photos inside and outside of the police car.

The small system can switch between recording video and taking digital photos on a tape or memory stick. Then the officer can burn the video directly to a CD for later use in court.

Entire installation time is two minutes, according to the company. Included in every MDP system is a permanent visor mount, which secures the system to the inside of the car without a suction cup. The visor mount will still allow you to dismount the camera for use outside the car. Both suction cup and visor mount are included.

Features include night vision, 480 digital zoom, joystick command controller, three-way record activation, digital picture stabilization, touch screen controls, and live remote feed via wireless modem.


The Flashback system from Mobile-Vision uses solid-state compact flash memory for a more reliable recording media that the company says is virtually indestructible.

With no moving parts, the Flashback DVR is able to sustain shock, vibration, and temperature extremes. It offers pre-event recording, TRACE, advanced MPEG4 compression, and internal GPS. It provides records from multiple camera and audio sources while using very little power.

System components include the Nite-Watch camera, which provides optimal nighttime performance, and Mobile-Vision’s VoiceLink Plus wireless microphone, which uses digital spread spectrum technology for clear automatic wireless communication.

Mobile-Vision’s new universal monitor console includes a 3.5-inch color LCD monitor, a speaker with adjustable volume, and backlit operational controls. Flexible mounting options enable the monitor console to be fitted in a variety of configurations.

MPH Industries

True View Digital DVD from MPH Industries records directly to DVDs to eliminate the need for computer storage or changes to evidence-handling procedures. Yet it also allows you to choose whether you want to store data directly on DVDs or on a computer hard drive.

The system allows you to preserve the original recording for court, plays back on inexpensive consumer DVD players, makes high-quality digital copies, and allows you to e-mail segments or save them on a computer.

True View is an industrial-grade recorder made to be durable enough to withstand the rigors of in-car use. The system can also be used with a VHS recorder and then upgraded to DVD use, providing additional flexibility.


Designed to store, capture, and catalog incidents, Motorola’s Mobile Video Enforcer system consists of an in-car digital video recorder with up to two cameras and a digital video management solution.

The mobile digital video recorder has a 60GB hard drive and a 24-hour recording capacity. Among the included components are an NTSC digital zoom camera, wireless microphone, receiver, body pack and charger, and an in-car mounting kit and docking station. The recorder features pre-event and event-triggered recording as well as auto iris adjustment to capture license plates at night.

A separate digital video management solution mounted in the car works with the recorder to download files, update software, archive data, and track recording history. An included DVD burner can create DVDs for court evidence or training purposes.

The mobile digital video recorder can be used alone or in conjunction with a laptop or mobile workstation.

WatchGuard Video

Made to be convenient and efficient, WatchGuard Video’s DV-1 in-car digital video recorder fits in an overhead console and records directly onto DVD-Video discs that will play on regular consumer DVD players.

The system records up to eight hours of digital video on a single disc that can be reused up to 1,000 times.

For easy navigation, the DV-1 records events in “chapters” triggered by the use of a car’s emergency lights and siren. In addition, 10 minutes of pre-event footage are automatically inserted in front of each “chapter.”

An integrated, ruggedized hard drive automatically backs up burned DVDs and saves a second video stream that can be manually archived to a DVD following a major event that requires additional evidence.

While the DV-1 is designed to be completely contained in an overhead console, reserving trunk space for gear and other essentials, a small two-piece version is also available for vehicles that cannot accommodate overhead placement of the system.

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