Philadelphia police working to implement new holster-activated body cameras | Special Report

Evesham Police was one of the first in our area to incorporate the cameras into its force in 2022

ByChad Pradelli and Cheryl Mettendorf WPVI logo
Tuesday, May 7, 2024
Police holster-activated body cams aim to increase transparency
Philadelphia police working to implement new holster-activated body cameras | Special Report

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia police are working to implement new technology called holster-activated body cameras.

The Evesham Police Department in Burlington County, New Jersey was one of the first in our area to incorporate them into its force in 2022.

Chief Walt Miller told the Action News Investigative Team the holster-activated body cameras are a game changer in policing, especially in use-of-force situations.

"When it's not, you know, captured on video, it leads to the tendency that maybe there's more to it," said Chief Miller.

More importantly, Chief Miller said the technology allows officers to react to situations without thinking about camera activation.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel says each second is critical.

"I was involved in a shooting, I could not imagine at that time if I had to stop and hit my camera and engage," said Commissioner Bethel.

Think inter-connectivity. Once a camera is activated, the Bluetooth will automatically activate the cameras of other officers within range.

"Whether it's through the sensor or manual activation, it also activates this in-car camera here, as well, and records everything within the front of the vehicle," added Chief Miller.

In an age when police use of force is always in question, the holster-activated cameras improve transparency.

"Sometimes people think it's done purposeful until they know what it is like to be in a critical incident," said Commissioner Bethel.

The lead-up to use of force is often critical moments to determine officer justification. The holster-activated cameras actually continuously record, but the video is not all stored.

But, when a holster-triggered activation occurs, the two minutes prior becomes captured and saved.

At the end of shifts, the cameras are then charged in a docking station by badge number.

"So all you would do is pop it right in here and you see this port there connects and then any video that's on there will start uploading to the cloud," said Chief Miller.

Both Commissioner Bethel and Chief Miller said the technology allows for better training. The video captured is reviewed and teachable moments are made.

"Most policing is done outside of the view of your supervisors, including me, and you think as an officer you got it right because nobody told you you got it wrong," said Chief Miller.

Philadelphia police told the Investigative Team the cost of the cameras is just over a million dollars and will be paid for through government grants. The department plans to roll them out by the end of the year.