April 29, 2010 By Elaine Pittman
The pursuit management system costs about $4,500 per car. For tactical reasons, Harrison couldn't say how many patrol cars in Arizona have the system. But he said the devices are more cost-effective than having a helicopter follow a suspect's vehicle, which is a common practice nationwide.
The DPS found that in some instances, the system helps police avoid a high-speed chase altogether. Some violators will drive off as the officer is approaching the vehicle, so the officer will tag the vehicle with the device before the suspect can make a break for it, Harrison said. "The suspect doesn't even know they've been tagged, and we just let them drive off - they think they're free, but we are still following them," he said. "We've had great success with the system."
The one barrier the police department encountered was finding a place to install the system on the front of the patrol car where it wouldn't interfere with the siren and the vehicle's operation - the best location was the car's grille. Space also was needed inside the vehicle to house the targeting and deployment device, and with laptops, radios and other equipment running, room and electrical power can be maxed out in patrol cars. Harrison said it can come down to deciding to install the pursuit management system or another technology, like an in-car camera system, due to the limitation of the vehicle's electrical capability.
"High-speed pursuits are difficult; you don't know the driver's capabilities, the vehicle's capabilities," he said. "There is a significant safety factor in addition to a liability factor of chasing somebody at high speeds. ... We think it's an excellent tool to reduce the carnage associated with high-speed pursuits."
Dashboard cameras have become commonplace in patrol cars, but the San Jose (Calif.) Police Department is taking the technology to a new level - eye level. In December 2009, 18 officers began using the Axon head camera made by Taser International. As part of a free trial, the officers are testing the cameras, which rest on the officer's ear like a Bluetooth device, with a wrap-around head brace securing the HeadCam. The start/stop recording button rests on the officer's chest and also connects to the Axon Tactical Computer, a 4.3-inch touchscreen that attaches to an officer's belt and enables video playback.
Photo: Officers in the San Jose, Calif., Police Department are testing the Axon head camera, which rests on the officer's ear and records the video and audio of interactions with the public. Photo courtesy of Taser International
"Our officers are always in the field and we're constantly being recorded," said Officer Jermaine Thomas. "So now you have it from an officer's point of view - what the officer is seeing and exactly what the subject or subjects have said in regard to any type of incident."
The department's policy requires that the officers activate the device anytime they're on a call for service or at an incident, Thomas said. San Jose's police officers have found that recording their interactions with the public can change the way they patrol. "It's a great mechanism because officers state that people do act different because they're being videotaped," he said.
Photo courtesy of Taser International
At the end of a shift, the devices are returned to a docking station where the information
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