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Law enforcement agencies across the country have begun to implement body-worn video initiatives, alongside fixed and in-car video, as part of their broader policing practices. The reasons for adopting this technology are much the same as those that prompted the first use of videotape-based surveillance in the 1960s — namely, that it enables the expansion of monitoring and evidence-collection capabilities, and that the technology itself is now mature enough to be reliable.
Successfully implemented body-worn camera (BWC) programs pay significant dividends in enhancing the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies and improving the lives of citizens in their communities. Research has shown that the use of BWCs can have a moderating effect on citizens’ behavior, improve the civility of citizen interactions and reduce use-of-force incidents and citizen complaints. Video captured by BWCs can be used as evidence in prosecution efforts and provide a record of citizen interactions.
Of course, there is a cost associated with any technology deployment, and it’s a fact of life that budget constraints often limit the ability of communities to develop and deploy promising new technologies, including BWC.
However, new approaches to BWC implementation are reducing the cost of acquisition and management for law enforcement agencies. One example is Visual Labs, which describes itself as “the body camera company that does not make body cameras.” The company has developed a cloud-based platform and body camera application that runs on an officer’s smartphone, taking advantage of the mobile device’s camera, GPS and always-on connectivity.
Visual Labs has partnered with Samsung to ensure the close integration of the BWC solution on Samsung’s portfolio of smartphones, including the Galaxy S10 and S9 range. In addition to serving as a BWC, the smartphone provides significant utility for officers in the field, providing access to computer aided dispatch, acting as a backup communications and taking photos for evidence collection.
Obtaining Funding for Body-Worn Camera Deployments
The Grants Office recently invited Samsung and Visual Labs to present a webinar discussing the landscape of BWC technology and taking a deep dive into the Department of Justice’s top wearables-focused grant program, the Body-Worn Camera Policy and Implementation Program to Support Law Enforcement Agencies (BWCPIP-LEA). The webinar covered tips for developing a BWC strategy, the requirements of BWCPIP-LEA and key elements of projects that have won funding from the program in years past.
With a deadline of June 5, 2019 (and a similar deadline expected in 2020), the BWCPIP-LEA program funds the development and deployment of comprehensive BWC initiatives for state, local and tribal governments that perform law enforcement and criminal justice functions. Beyond traditional law enforcement services, the program also allows corrections agencies, consortia and agencies that support campus law enforcement agencies to apply for these funds.
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In order to be competitive for these funds, a comprehensive initiative needs to include the development of operational procedures, BWC policies (some of the funds may be withheld until a policy that is “purposeful, comprehensive and deliberately designed” has been developed and certified), training protocols, digital evidence management and public outreach.
As with many 21st century grant programs, BWCPIP-LEA is also inherently collaborative. Even though the funding itself will be paid to — and spent by — a law enforcement agency, winning projects will have to show evidence of close collaboration with other components of the justice system, as well as community groups and civic leaders.
This makes for a lot of moving parts. In order to help sort out some of the elements of planning and preparing for a BWC initiative, the Bureau of Justice Assistance has assembled a catalog of information to inform and assist departments. This Body-Worn Camera Toolkit also contains research resources you can use to strengthen and inform your BWCPIP-LEA proposal.
Other Wearable-Friendly Grant Programs
Though not specific to wearables, other grant programs such as the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants and the Project Safe Neighborhoods Program also fund technology (including BWC equipment) as part of project awards for those applicants who integrate them into their project plans. Keep in mind that not all of the BWC-friendly grant programs are administered by the Department of Justice, so it helps to think broadly about how your BWC program will be applied (in schools, near international borders or in high-crime or low-income neighborhoods, for example) in order to cast a wide net across the funding landscape.
The Samsung Grants Support Program
The Samsung Grants Support Program can also help you find the best funders for any technology program, and it’s a free service provided by Samsung. Finding technology-friendly grants and making sure they fit with your vision for your technology-rich project can be challenging, especially for those who are new to the grant-seeking process. Through your Samsung representative, you can now access Grants Office Grants Development Consultants to obtain a Funding Opportunity Report — a comprehensive inventory of grant opportunities that fit with your project, as well as consultation to help you navigate the landscape of technology-friendly public safety grant funding.