April 29, 2010 By Elaine Pittman
is downloaded to a server and the battery is recharged. Thomas said the recordings are stored for one year and can be retrieved for internal review or to show in court.
One drawback has been the bulkiness of the new wearable technology. However, Thomas said that in the future the technology will get smaller and easier to wear.
Foster, a Retired Los Angeles police officer, also worries that officers may tactically compromise themselves because they want to ensure that the camera is on before responding to an incident. "I hope that somebody doesn't think they should switch on their camera before they take the action they're supposed to take," he said.
Thomas said the device constantly stores video footage. When the officer hits the record button the camera has already recorded the previous 30 seconds, although it lacks audio. "When something happens, if the officer doesn't have time to [turn it on], if he's in a high-risk situation he's going to have to deal with that first," he said. "But once it's over, you can tap the button and it actually records 30 seconds before you turn it on."
Photo courtesy of Taser International
As the recession continues to batter state and local government budgets, the nation is looking for inventive and cost-effective methods to recoup funds. Although license plate recognition systems have been used in the United Kingdom since the '90s and became popular in the U.S. during the last decade for spotting stolen vehicles, at least one locality is repurposing them to help collect the $1 million owed to its parking violations department.
The Greenwich (Conn.) Police Department outfitted two patrol cars with a device that can scan up to 3,600 license plates per minute while officers drive on patrol. The automated license plate recognition system, Elsag North America's Mobile Plate Hunter-900, uses two cameras attached to the patrol car, one on the left side and one on the right. "They're angled and have wide lenses so they'll capture the license plates of cars approaching as well as cars that are parked on the sides," said Greenwich Police Sgt. John Slusarz.
Officers manually upload three lists into the system: one from the local Parking Violations Office that includes the town's parking ticket scofflaws; a list from the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles of expired, canceled and suspended license plates; and one from the FBI's National Crime Information Center of wanted people.
The cameras are linked to software that runs in the background on the officers' laptops. While they're on patrol or responding to a call, the system scans all license plates the car passes. "If it finds one that's on one of the lists, it will advise the operator that it just located one of the plates and what it's on the list for - whether it's a stolen car, unregistered or has suspended registration, or whether it's a scofflaw violator," Slusarz said. The software also shows a photo of the vehicle and says which side of the patrol car it was on.
"For a patrolman, collecting fines for parking violations isn't the top priority, so if he's going to a call and the system says scofflaw violator, that's the last thing on the list for him," he said. "But if he's on routine patrol and goes by a scofflaw violator, then his practice is to stop and call Parking Violations to make sure it hasn't been paid since the system was last updated." A parking violations employee puts a boot on the vehicle, which is removed after the individual pays the fine.
Although it cost about $40,000 to outfit the two patrol
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