Birmingham Police Department eyes new and improved body cams

alabama police body camera
Greenville, AL’s pollice department also uses body cameras – via WBRC

Birmingham City Council voted on whether to purchase upgraded police body cameras and their related software from AXON Enterprises, makers of the Taser, yesterday.

History

Axon Enterprises produces a variety of “police body worn cameras,” as the agenda of the July 6th City Council Meeting describes them.  Birmingham has used body cameras since 2015, initially budgeting close to a million dollars for the  purchases.

axon flex birmingham alabama poilce
Birmingham Police currently use these easily-mounted cameras – via WBRC

In 2016, the BPD expanded its program to use body cameras on every shift.

For the upcoming years, costs have dropped by several hundred thousand dollars per year.  Cameras and licenses for supporting software will cost only three-quarters of a million by the end of the year.

Something new

While the resolution itself fails to mention which model camera the city will purchase, my own sleuthing suggests an answer.  Birmingham previously bought what appears in a press release video to be AXON’s Flex series body cameras.  These cameras are notable for their separate camera and battery box.  I suspect BPD will upgrade to the Flex 2 series, which promises to address concerns over poor sound quality low resolution.

I expect the resolution passed with flying colors, given that the funding has already been appropriated from future budgets and that three city officials support the resolution.  The video recording of the meeting, at time of publishing, has not been uploaded.

The benefits seem to outweigh concerns

Implementing body cameras reduce complaints from citizens and use of force incidents.  AL.com discovered that at the beginning of Birmingham’s program, “Citizen complaints dropped from 28 to 10 for a 70 percent decrease.  A University of Cambridge study found that reports against officers dropped by almost 90% when the officers wore body cameras.

While some worry about party consent laws, Alabama remains a one-party consent to record state.  This means that anyone may record anyone in a public space or personal interaction.  Therefore, police body cameras would not infringe on these interactions.

  • I'm a Birmingham native who loves music, cycling, reading, and tech. Find me on the campus of Birmingham-Southern College, in Avondale, or hanging out with my cat