Today I received news of, what I believe, to be a step in the right direction. Officers in Burnsville, MN (Dakota County) have received a new toy. Now, it may seem a little odd for a Criminal Defense attorney to celebrate an event like this, but hear me out. Officers have received five AXON units and are expected to receive five more units soon. These are personal video cameras for officers (sounds neat). Something like this has been on my wishlist for Santa since I can remember. Check out the video below.
What is AXON?
The AXON is an integrated audiovisual recording system comprised of a headcam, communications hub, and tactical computer worn by the officer. Audiovisual evidence acquired by AXON is then transferred to Evidence.com, a cloud-based data repository, using SYNAPSE ETM. Together these technologies provide a seamless, highly secure, and efficient process for gathering and managing high-quality evidence. This system allows public safety and legal professionals to access data quickly and easily without compromising its integrity. (See CorrectionsOne.com for more information)
What are the Benefits
The benefit, in my opinion, is clear.
- In the case of Criminal Charges: When we go to court and charges are filed – there will be evidence. These recordings will be available. When the police claim they provided our clients with their Miranda warning, there it is (or isn’t). When they say our client ran from them, there’s the video (if the claim is true). I think it will also reduce the number of charges when they don’t actually have the information they claim.
- In the case of Civil Rights: When provided with video, it can be very clear if the Officer acted inappropriately when he pulled out his Taser and shot the docile civilian who was alleged to have a gun pointed at the Officer. Or when the “docile civilian” actually had – what looked like a gun – pointed at the Officer.
What’s the Down Side
Now for the down side: AXON is built by TASER International, Inc. (if that doesn’t send a chill down your spine, you have no idea what has been done with these things). Several problems are also readily apparent:
- First of which is that the Officer can choose when this system is on and running. If officers are able to choose when the recording is on and when it’s off, it decreases the chances that an officer will choose to record violations of Civil Rights. According to MinnLocal.com :
The operation settings, located on the hub, are “event,” “privacy” and “normal.” The “event” mode records a scene or situation an officer approaches and “privacy” is used in personal moments unassociated with an officer’s civic duty. The “normal” or “buffering” mode, [Captain] Gieseke says, is what the device is most commonly set on. While on this mode, the device is temporarily recording what the camera is seeing in 30-second loops.
An officer will use “event” mode as he or she approaches a scene to record it. The “buffering” setting records the 30 seconds preceding the event footage. The section of video in this mode only records the visual content (not the audio) but can help add frame of reference to a particular scene or situation an officer is involved in.
The limited number and slow incorporation. Even today, after squad cameras have been around for over 20 years, we still run into situations where they didn’t have a squad camera in the vehicle, and we are forced to take the officers word on how things happened.
Conclusion (and video)
I still believe this will be a great system. The chance to reduce the questionable testimony that is often introduced in the legal system will be very welcome. I truly hope this system is adopted as quickly as possible and that Officers are required to have this system on and recording at any time they are acting in their official capacity. I hope that our clients will remember to use their Constitutional Rights (Remain Silent – Ask for Us).
If they Officers are doing their job correctly, they should be demanding a system like this. If they are not doing their job correctly, I don’t want them “protecting” me.