One of the most promising technologies in law enforcement is body cameras. Body cameras make the job of a police officer easier and more efficient. They can improve situational awareness, provide details for reports, and help protect officers on scene.
Officer Monica Lee of the Daytona Beach Police Department in Florida shared why her agency uses livestreaming body cameras for officer safety and tactical advantage.
The Daytona Beach Police Department, who is a FirstNet user, has been using body cameras since 2012 and livestreaming since 2019. Today, the agency has 220 staff, and all ranks from patrol to chiefs are issued body-worn cameras.
“We feel pretty comfortable with cameras and livestreaming at our agency,” said Officer Lee.
Officer Lee has been with the department for 17 years and is the body camera administrator and trainer for the agency. She believes that livestreaming body cameras are critical to police operations.
“We use body cameras as a tactical advantage and officer safety tool,” she said. “If I ever hear of an agency that does not have cameras, I wonder how they survive.”
Officer Lee has personally experienced the benefits of livestreaming body cameras. She recalled an incident during a bar closing when the loud environment interfered with her ability to get radio transmissions from her shoulder mic.
“I couldn't hear the sergeant calling me,” she said. “So he livestreamed into my camera and saw that I was breaking up a large fight and sent officers to my location.”
Even though Officer Lee wasn’t able to talk on her radio, the sergeant could get her location through the camera’s GPS.
“If an officer is not answering their radio, the supervisor will livestream to get a better view of what is going on and why the officer is not answering,” she explained. “We use the GPS capabilities within the livestream so the supervisor can see their officers on a mapping system.”
Livestreaming body cameras have been successful for the Daytona Beach Police Department in part because of robust policies and training.
Officer Lee explained, “It’s our policy that as soon as you get dispatched, you turn on your camera.” This helps avoid officers forgetting to turn on cameras amidst the chaos of arriving on scene when the main priority is the safety of everyone involved.
The department also has policies governing when supervisors can access the livestreamed video. “Supervisors can't just livestream for no reason. They have to have a reason such as an officer safety or tactical issue,” she said. “There's no stealth mode with livestream, and officers always know when they’re being livestreamed because the color on their camera changes.”
These policies have helped to build the credibility of the livestreaming program with officers. “Officers trust that the livestreaming is for their safety and for tactical advantages. The cameras are configured to accommodate officers’ privacy.”
In addition to robust policies, the use of body cameras is built into the training program, so officers practice livestreaming from the very beginning. “Officers are trained to turn on their body cameras during training scenarios so that we can start building their muscle memory before hitting the road,” she said.
When livestreaming video from the scene, officers and their supervisors must be able to rely on the network’s ability to transmit large streams of data.
Officer Lee stressed the importance of clear video transmission for officer’s body cameras. “Because we use cameras for officer safety, buffering and glitches can’t be overlooked,” she said.
FirstNet is built for public safety operations and gives responders True Priority®. When livestreaming on FirstNet, law enforcement gets the ‘lights and sirens’ to cut through network congestion for minimal or no interruption.