Lawrence police try out new automatic body camera recording technology

LAWRENCE, Ind. – New body camera technology is being rolled out this week in Lawrence. The police department is the first in the nation to test out the new tool.

FOX59 got an inside look at how it works and how it will protect you and police officers during tense situations.

Most body camera devices require officers to manually hit the record button for the camera to start rolling. This new device automatically starts recording the second officers remove their guns from the holsters.

The technology would be useful in situations where officers encounter unsuspected danger or where they are out of their patrol cars.

"If we have officers who are on a routine foot patrol, say in an apartment complex and all of a sudden, they're confronted with a deadly threat, they pull their gun out and the camera will activate," explained Lawrence Police Chief David Hoffman.

The idea is to eliminate one extra step in an already stressful situation and prevent what could be considered human error.

"In the blink of an eye, without any notice or anticipation, they are in a situation where they feel the need to draw their weapon," Chief Hoffman said. He added, "I don't want my officers thinking, 'Oh my gosh. I have to activate my camera.' I want them focused on the threat.”

Everything recorded on the body cam is stored online for a state mandate of 190 days. Sometimes, the footage is stored even longer, or forever, depending on the case. In Lawrence, some lawsuits against officers have been dropped after reviewing the footage.

"It sheds a light. It shows the truth of what officers really do, what they encounter, the dangers they face," Hoffman said.

Retired IMPD Officer Mark Wood is a manager for BodyWorn, the company at the center of the new technology.

"This emits an electromagnetic field through the holster that detects the metal of the gun in the holster. When the weapon is pulled out, it breaks the magnetic field that sends the sensor a signal that says ‘I want my camera to start,’" Wood explained.

Wood said departments across the country would likely be interested in this new policing tool, given many conversations happening about incidents nationwide. Many other central Indiana departments have also expressed interest in learning about the high-tech tool.

Five officers in Lawrence are testing out the new technology. If it works, 45 officers will get the new tool in a few weeks.