The ultimate in transparency is now expected from all American law enforcement agencies. This expectation is never more critical than when officers are involved in shootings. Over the last decade, community response to these incidents have sparked mass demonstrations and riots. Sometimes the community rises up because video evidence of the incident is inconclusive.
In many use-of-force incidents, the video evidence available after the event is not captured, or is not as clear or insightful as desired. Body-worn cameras, in-vehicle cameras, and other evidence-gathering devices do not always provide conclusive evidence. Body cameras were not designed specifically to capture officer-involved shootings. Which is why a solution was necessary that shows what the officers saw when they decided to use deadly force.
Viridian created a solution to capture critical evidence with the Fact Duty gun camera. The Fact Duty attaches to the weapon accessory rail and automatically activates when the weapon is drawn. It provides an unobstructed view of critical use-of-force events from the end of the firearm, addressing limitations officers can face with body cameras, which can be blocked when officers seek cover or even when they present their weapons during a shooting.
In 2022, Viridian has introduced the Fact Duty+, which features advanced technology and performance with new capabilities centered around ease of use for the officer and improved implementation and management by agencies.
The most important new features of the Fact Duty+ are the Dattery and Dattery Dock, a new data storage system that detaches from the firearm’s recording device for immediate charging and secure data transfer to multiple third-party data management platforms. The Fact Duty+ was created for larger departments and incorporates years of feedback and use-case information from officers and law enforcement leaders across the country.
The Fact Duty+ features Viridian’s patented Instant-On technology, which automatically activates when the firearm is removed from the holster. The camera itself captures 1920 x 1080 HD video, has a 112-degree field of view, and records at 30 frames per second. There is an integrated microphone for HD audio and it fits securely to all duty weapon rail systems. The Fact Duty+ is available in Taclight and Laser + Taclight versions. Both models offer a 500-lumen tactical light and the laser option comes with Viridian’s patented green laser technology, which has a range of 100 yards in daylight and two miles in the dark.
The Dattery Dock is password protected for evidence integrity and is set for automatic download when mated with a standalone charger. It features 32GB of data storage built right into the removable, rechargeable battery. This allows the Fact Duty to remain connected to the firearm while the removable Dattery simultaneously downloads recorded gun camera data and recharges.
The idea for Viridian’s gun cameras was born in August 2014 when Ferguson, MO, Officer Darren Wilson was involved in a shooting that killed Michael Brown. From that incident and the ensuing riots and protests, it became obvious to Viridian that cameras were needed on officers’ guns and that automatic activation was necessary to ensure the evidence is captured.
Viridian had already been manufacturing cutting-edge accessories for firearms for a decade. The idea to use our technology to attach a camera to a firearm was a natural outgrowth from our product line of laser sights and weapon lights.
The first Viridian gun cameras were put into the hands of officers in 2017. These devices equipped officers with the ability to have unfettered views and clear evidence from most use-of-force events involving their duty guns. These first trials quickly led to several deployments in Arizona, Minnesota, Texas, and several other states.
In 2020, Viridian’s Fact Duty gun camera captured its first video of an officer-involved shooting. That video provided the key evidence to convict a suspect in the shooting of a Vernon, TX, officer.
The video from the Fact Duty Weapon-Mounted Camera (WMC) showed the defendant pointing a sawed-off shotgun at Vernon Police Corporal T.J. Session during an exchange of gunfire in which both Session and the defendant were shot and wounded.
The WMC evidence helped eliminate any reasonable doubt on the defendant’s actions as the jury took less than 30 minutes to arrive at the guilty verdict. The defense claimed self-defense in the case based on allegations of the officer using unlawful force in the situation. I attended the trial as Viridian’s general counsel and saw that the evidence provided by the WMC refuted that defense. The defendant was convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on a public official—a level one felony in Texas—and sentenced to 40 years in prison. “It (the video) was really an absolutely critical piece of evidence in this case,” says Wilbarger County District Attorney Staley Heatly, who prosecuted the case.
“The WMC provided essential footage of this particular incident,” I said at the time. “This case would have been much more difficult to prosecute without the WMC footage.”
What I also realized at the time was that when police departments and legal officials from around the country learned of the result, they would see the necessity of the WMC as a supplement or alternative to body cameras as a mandatory evidentiary tool to provide the critical evidence of a subject’s actions at the time a police officer is forced to make the split-second decision to pull the trigger.
Viridian subjectively researched publicly available body camera footage for the years 2016 and 2017 obtained by officers of incidents in which their firearms were drawn. The objective was to determine what aspect of the footage was most crucial from legal and community relations perspectives, the situation leading to drawing the weapon or the reason the weapon was fired. Viridian then compared the footage to what a Fact Duty Weapon-Mounted Camera would have captured had it been deployed by an agency in these situations.
This study showed a Fact Duty gun camera would have reasonably captured essential evidence in officer-involved shootings 86% of the time. Furthermore, a body camera only captured difference-making evidence 37% of the time and on 11% of instances, didn’t capture anything at all. Our research shows that gun cameras can benefit agencies even if they already use body cameras.
Adding Gun Cameras
More and more police agencies are discovering a need for gun cameras. They are also discovering that gun camera program are easy to implement. Gun cameras do not require extra training, nor do they alter the use of police firearms. Gun camera programs also cost significantly less than body camera programs and body camera evidence storage.
To get your department on the list to receive the Fact Duty+ in the very near future, contact [email protected].
Matt Plowman is general counsel for Viridian Weapon Technologies.