Lightbars, Camera, Action!

Frightening, instructional, oftentimes inspirational, and even entertaining videos come to us via a variety of dashboard cameras mounted inside America's law enforcement patrol vehicles.

Author Dean Scoville Headshot

The scenes are memorable. A desperate state trooper pleads for his life before being pursued around the rear of his patrol vehicle and executed. Another trooper T-bones an armed suspect's vehicle, incapacitating its driver a split second before he would have fired an assault weapon at the officer. A passive-aggressive cop baits a suspect into a fulminating vent of roadside rage.

These frightening, instructional, oftentimes inspirational, and even entertaining videos come to us via a variety of dashboard cameras mounted inside America's law enforcement patrol vehicles.

Even when not capable of offering visual confirmation of what has happened, dashboard cameras have proven to be valuable in capturing the audio of officer-involved confrontations such as that involving one officer confronted by an armed and suicidal man. Although inside the house and visually off camera, the officer's repeated commands for the man to drop his weapon were captured via his wireless microphone which was synced to his dashboard camera, helping to corroborate his version of events.

Mobile digital video cameras address administrative, criminal, and prospective litigation concerns by providing objective video and audio documentation of what has happened to precipitate a complaint, an accident, use of force, and/or shooting.

Let's look at some sample systems and how they are being used in the field.


AMR Digital

AMR Digital's mobile digital video recording system is automatically activated by "lights-on," the wireless mic, siren, or other triggers. There are no confusing or distracting buttons or switches, just the camera and rearview mirror monitor.

The system constantly prerecords 30 to 60 seconds of activity, which is automatically saved when the system is activated. When the patrol car returns to the station, videos are securely transmitted wirelessly from the vehicle to a dedicated server via a building-mounted antenna and wireless access point.


Dakota Micro

Four camera inputs, including two forward facing cameras that provide clean, clear views of both vehicle approach and license plate recognition, define Dakota Micro's ID-Mobile in-vehicle digital recording system. The Telex wireless body mic system provides crystal clear audio, which can be vital for recorded evidence.



Data911's Mobile Digital Video is capable of continuously capturing video and audio, or can be trigger activated by the officer. Live-feed technology allows viewing by other officers.

The system features both hands-free wireless uploads for collected signal retrieval, as well as removable storage capability. Authorized users are able to watch live images from multiple in-vehicle cameras.


Decatur Electronics

Housed in the overhead area of the Ford Crown Victoria and supported by GEM software, Decatur Electronics' Gemini Digital In-Car Video System includes a digital video recorder, a 4.75-inch touch screen monitor, and a Sony camera.

The system also features automatic deletion settings that operators control and PreVu recording for capturing data before the officer knows it's needed. Evidence is stored electronically, so the system can automatically delete expired video and offers advanced search capabilities.


Digital Ally

Integrated into a rearview mirror, Digital Ally's digital in-car video system can be modified to include a wireless software file transfer system. Video files can then be automatically or manually transferred upon connection to a secured network.

Even if the connection is lost or data retrieval is interrupted, the software will automatically resume transferring files once it reconnects to the network. Collected data is removed from the compact flash card and uploaded into the Digital Ally's Video Manager Software.



With a DVR, 40GB vehicle-grade hard drive, integrated color LCD monitor, and all system controls in a one-piece shock-resistant case that fits within the radio slot of a patrol car's dashboard, ICOP's Model 20/20 is easy to access and use and never interferes with an officer's field of vision.

Two cameras—a Sony Super HAD color CCD camera with image-sensing capability and a micro black-and-white Sony camera for recording suspects in the back seat—operate simultaneously. Audio is recorded on two separate audio channels using a wireless microphone system and an interior mic. By adding ICOP's new EXTREME Wireless Mic you can record audio at a range of half a mile. The MARK feature tags important events for later recall. Advanced wireless technology allows the system to capture and upload video up to five to 10 times faster than other systems.


Kustom Signals

The Digital Eyewitness ION Eclipse, the newest generation of digital in-car video from Kustom Signals, includes a maximum security vault that mounts in the trunk to protect recorded evidence from environmental and physical damage.

This system provides the user with the flexibility to determine the prerecording length, from 30 seconds to three minutes. With the optional automatic crash recording activation system, the video recorder (including the pre-event memory) can capture the impact if it falls within the field of vision of the active camera.


L-3 Communications

With a low-light color zoom camera, a rear seat wide angle camera, wireless and in-car microphones, L-3 Communications' Flashback system's DVR technology can capture all aspects of a patrol incident.

The Digital Evidence Viewer (DEV) software provides for secure file transfer, powerful search features, and multiple user Web browser access. The included GPS module allows for searchability by location and synchronizes the time for all department vehicles.


Martel Electronics

Martel Electronics' innovative My Digital Partner 2, or MDP2, compact video system consists of a handheld camera and a wireless microphone with a 1,500-foot range that are useful for documenting evidence outside of the car. The visor-mounted camera can videotape police stops and take digital photos.

Digital evidence from the MDP2 can be recorded on a memory stick or straight to videotape. A USB docking station can be used to download video and photos to a computer for burning CDs and DVDs for court presentations.



In a Texas courthouse, videos of contested traffic violations recorded by Panasonic's Arbitrator are routinely downloaded by a court administrator for review.

Unobtrusively mounted near the rearview mirror and linked to an in-car CPU—typically placed between the front seats of the patrol vehicle, Panasonic's Arbitrator in-car video system continuously records an officer's work shift. Wi-Fi integrated, the Arbitrator allows system administrators to automatically download mobile video recordings from officers' patrol vehicles to a mainframe at the station at their shift's conclusion, obviating the officer's need to personally download and store the video data that has been collected.

Eight different taping triggers such as when the patrol car reaches a certain speed or when the shotgun has been removed from its locked mounting automatically activate the system's recorder, thereby allowing the officer to keep his mind on the job at hand. Panasonic says that downloads are 10 times faster than the competition.


Safety Vision

Readiness and reliability are hallmarks of the PatrolRecorder Series from Safety Vision. These systems power up in less than four seconds, rendering them always ready for action. This series provides both event-based and shift-based recording integrated with GPS positioning and long recording time. Data is stored on removable compact flash cards, removable hard drives, or can be uploaded using wireless technology.


Vision Hawk

Four microphones inside and outside of the car, an overhead mounted forward-facing camera that allows recording in any direction, and a rear facing low-light camera with wide angle view and infrared lighting to provide backseat coverage comprise the Vision Hawk digital video evidence system.

This system allows for simultaneous recording and playback, as well as the ability to capture data-documented snapshots from your car. Vision Hawk's optional GPS system can interface with dispatch for other applications.


About the Author
Author Dean Scoville Headshot
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