Exclusive Close Up: Pasadena Police Department Hits the Streets Fully Equipped with High-Tech Body Cams

Pasadena Police Department is Now Fully Equipped with High-Tech Body CamsPasadena Police Department is Now Fully Equipped with High-Tech Body CamsPasadena Police Department is Now Fully Equipped with High-Tech Body CamsPasadena Police Department is Now Fully Equipped with High-Tech Body CamsPasadena Police Department is Now Fully Equipped with High-Tech Body CamsPasadena Police Department is Now Fully Equipped with High-Tech Body CamsPasadena Police Department is Now Fully Equipped with High-Tech Body CamsPasadena Police Department is Now Fully Equipped with High-Tech Body Cams


6:21 am | November 8, 2016

Monday was the first day Pasadena Police officers suited up with new high-tech body cameras attached to their uniform and ready to record in a new department-wide practice that extends beyond the 239 sworn officers. Other Department employees including detention officers, park safety specialists, community service officers, reserve officers and forensic technicians will also have that extra set of digital eyes attached to them in an impressive 21st century department upgrade.

“We are excited about using the body cams. We believe that the cameras will hold everyone accountable for their actions—not just the police, but the public at large,” said Lieutenant Vasken Gourdikian. ”It’s a piece of technology that’s being introduced not only locally, but nation-wide and we are happy to participate in the program. We believe that it will enhance officer safety as well.”

The Pasadena Police Department purchased approximately 300 new body cameras for $1.5 million from Taser International in the form of two models called the Axon Body 2 and the Flex. The Axon Body 2 is a rectangular body cam that fastens to the chest area of an officer, and the Flex is a clip-on camera in the shape of a writing pen most commonly used by motor officers.

These cameras, although compact in size, pack all the features of cutting edge video technology: 1080p HD full color video resolution, 142 degree field of view, 12 hour battery life, 64 GB of storage, dual channel audio recording and more.

“The expectation is that everyone in the Police Department that interacts with the public — not just sworn police officers, but whomever has frequent and regular contact with members of the public or by virtue of their job assignment — they are all issued a body worn camera,” Gourdikian said.

Support staff and clerical staff that work in side the police headquarters building at 207 North Garfield Avenue are not expected to be assigned a body camera, he said.

Each camera is serialized for each officer/user even when a spare camera must be put in rotation due to inactive battery life or any other malfunction.

“My body worn camera is personally assigned to me. So if you were to don it and go record, it’s as if I am wearing it. You can go back into the field with a spare body worn camera, yet it’s assigned to you as if your current camera is assigned to you so there is no digital interruption with the video evidence that you are gathering,” said Gourdikian about serializing body cams.

The Axon body cams are activated by the push of large button on the front of it that beeps loudly, blinks red to indicate it is recording and also vibrates regularly during recording to allow officer’s to know that is in operation and working.

“Last week we did five days straight of training. The entire department was trained on how to use the technology and policy,” said Corporal Todd McDonald.

Officers are required to function test their camera before each shift and the camera is to remain on standby in what’s called “passive mode”, where the camera is on but not recording, until the officer manually pushes the large recording button on the front of the camera.

“The minute they get a radio call of a crime in progress, whether they are pulling a car over, or even a cold report the expectation is that you hit record and go about your job. That’s the only nuance that is different. Before, they would just go do their job and now they will hit record whenever they are going to interact with members of the public,” said Gourdikian.

The cameras offer a 30 second buffer feature that allows for footage to be seen 30 seconds prior to the camera recording to provide further context of the situation that merited an officer to record.

“If they park their car and get out and want to go get a cup of coffee, their camera is still in the passive mode and is not recording because they’re not investigating anything and they’re not responding to a call for services and there is no imminent threat. Now, if someone confronts them and the conversation becomes adversarial or someone tries to get their attention to investigate, then the expectation is that they hit record,” explained Gourdikian.

There are docking stations on every floor in the building of the PPD where both the Axon body cameras and the Flex model cameras “live” when not in operation to charge up and also transfer over and upload the day’s footage from each officer’s shift.

All of the footage is stored in a virtual filing cabinet in a cloud-based format called evidence.com.

“This is supervised by a full time employee in the building as well because its treated as digital evidence and property,” explained Gourdikian.

Video footage is treated as evidence and restricts access as a way to present checks and balances within the operation.

Officers are only allowed to view their own footage as a means for court and report preparation, Gourdikian said. The database logs any and all activity.

“The average user can view his or her own videos at any time,” said McDonald.

The footage logging process is detailed and models traditional evidence locker practices.

“It’s just like if we were booking a physical object in as evidence. We would tag it with a case number, we would put the location of where we recovered it from, the circumstances involving that case and then we physically hand it to the property room supervisor who then books it in as evidence so that every subsequent view of that physical object requires a sign-off. So now this electronically monitored in that fashion,” Gourdikian explained.

According to Gourdikian and McDonald, the new technology is not daunting, but will take some time to get used to.

“It’s a learning curve, but it’s also going to require attention full time. We’ve made arrangements to ensure that there are no interruptions in service to the troops and to the public,” said Gourdikian.

City of Pasadena Department of Information Technology personnel are availbale to provide technical support in the form of maintenance, troubleshooting and providing reference guides for officers it the field.

For more technical information about the body cameras the Pasadena Police Department now uses, visit https://www.axon.io/products/body2