A handful of police departments across the country are supplying their officers with a new accessory: gun cameras.
The small device, which is placed under the barrel of a sidearm, is said to provide a better view of police shootings than body cameras. Body cameras can often times be obstructed – or they may not be turned on at all.
“It’s kind of cutting-edge technology now,” Assistant Chief Michael Kovacsev of the St. Petersburg, Florida, Police Department tells the Associated Press.
Kovacsev’s department started testing out gun cameras this year.
“One thing about the gun camera is you can actually see what’s going on,” he adds. “You actually get to see the viewpoint of the officer where the weapon is pointed.
Those in favor of making the switch also believe gun cameras will save police departments money by reducing video storage costs, since the device doesn’t start recording until the firearm is actually drawn.
According to the Associated Press, it can cost a mid-size police department tens of thousands of dollars a year to store footage. For larger departments, that bill can get up into the hundreds of thousands.
But these aren’t the only reasons police are considering making the switch.
Depending on the make and model, gun cameras can also come equipped with high-powered lights, meaning officers do not need to juggle their firearm and a flashlight in high stress situations.
Better yet, some have the capability to send out alerts to nearby police, signaling that an officer has drawn their weapon and may need backup.
While there are definitely some pros to these devices, not everyone is on board with testing them.
The Associated Press reports that the NYPD and the LAPD have no interest in using these cameras.
“If you put a camera on a gun, it’s only going to work when you pull your gun,” Deputy Chief Timothy Trainor of the NYPD tells the news agency. “We’re more concerned about capturing (all) interactions between the community that we are tasked to serve and the officers.”
The NAACP and ACLU have the same concern, noting that valuable context will be lost, namely what promoted the officer to draw his weapon in the first place.
However, those who are against the switch aren’t necessarily against the use of gun cameras, they just believe they shouldn’t replace body cameras. In other words, they would be supplemental. But at $500 a piece, that seems like a hard sell.
Currently, only a handful of other law enforcement agencies are giving these cameras a shot; the West Hennepin Public Safety Department in Minnesota, and the Williams Police Department in Arizona are among them.
As the Associated Press notes, while police are just starting to test out gun cameras, they aren’t new technology. Sports shooters and hunters have been using them for years. And by the sound of it, that’s likely the realm in which they’ll stay.