Last week the San Carlos Police Department went live with new digital audio/video technology in its patrol fleet.

This new technology, developed by Panasonic, is designed not only to record police contacts in the field, but also to provide for wireless downloading of those audio and video files onto a computer server. This technology allows for ease of storage and access, is viewable from desktop computers, requires no handling of tapes, and transfers easily to other interested parties such as prosecutors, defense attorneys, and the courts.

The system offers a combination of digital in-car video capturing, storing, uploading, transferring, viewing and archiving of video for maximum use by both the field and backend users.

San Carlos Police Department is one of many agencies in the country that utilize audio and video systems in their patrol fleet as an important risk management and investigative tool. The primary function of this tool has been to accurately document police events, capture images of the area surrounding an event, and record statements made by officers and others during traffic stops, pedestrian stops, and critical incidents. The information provided by the audio and video files can be used as evidence in court, a training tool for officers, or to help sustain or exonerate officers who have been the subject of a complaint.

The project was partially funded by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) which is an agency that has risk management support for police as one of its core functions. ABAG believes video cameras are effective in reducing the frequency and severity of police claims.

Commander Sandra Spagnoli, who headed up the project for the Police Department, said, "Until now, we placed an enormous amount of staff time into managing all the tapes that were produced with our old system. But the ease and efficiencies of this technology virtually eliminates that staff work and makes accessing of the information almost effortless."