Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now



Getting the Most from Mobile Video Recorders

Low price, ease of use, reliability are what police departments seek

The growing trend for police vehicle camera systems is to upgrade those systems for higher resolution, optimized data transmission and bandwidth conservation.

The front of a police vehicle; notice the video screen. by Robin Berger

In addition, users polled continue to favor ease of use and reliability at an affordable price.


During 2010, Memphis, Tenn.-based Pannin technologies introduced the D1 video resolution format (enabling 720×480 pixels on screen) to its enforcer standalone in car Video system. the enforcer also now incorporates the h.264 compression standard (also known as MPEG4 Part 10 advanced Video coding); h.264 encoding optimizes the transmission of streamed video by significantly lowering the amount of bandwidth needed to transmit it without distorting the images. the enforcer’s bit rate ranges from 12.5 kilobits to 112.5 kilobits per second, according to the manufacturer.

the video produced by the enforcer “is so much clearer,” said Lt. Terry Hastings, spokesman for the little rock, arkansas Police Department, which had about 150 of those systems installed out of a total fleet of 250 cars. he said the department began replacing its former system in 2009, and will (budget allowing) add 50 more enforcers in 2011. “We started the MVR process with VHS tapes – the quality was poor, microphone reception was poor and a lot of times we lost video.”

for hastings, the greatest benefit of the equipment was the ease of use rendered by a digital system. “It’s much more officer friendly,” he said. the department’s former system forced supervisors to go out to the cars to retrieve the video tapes, then log and store the “boxes and boxes” of Vhs cassettes. With the enforcer, he said, the video “is downloaded wirelessly, directly from the car to the system.”

Ease of use also factors into fulfilling Freedom of Information Act requests.

“We get a lot of requests for car video from attorneys,” he said. “It’s a very simple matter to go on a computer and make a DVD. We used to struggle for days trying to get the data off the old system and in a usable form to answer these FOIs.”

And handling of the video is more easily restricted to the IT department. “Officers do not have the authorization to edit that video,” said Hastings. Access to the video is “very limited” so it cannot be tampered with, he said.

Officer Chris Johannes uses Pannin Technologies’ Enforcer Standalone In Car Video System installed in a Little Rock, Ark. patrol car. Photo by Officer Scotty Dettmer, courtesy of Little Rock Police Department EASY, FLEXIBLE, RELIABLE

During November 2010, Yorba, Linda, Calif.-based Martel Electronics announced that video recorded by up to 64 cars equipped with its Martel Digital Enterceptor-2 system (MDE2) could be accessed by anyone with a 3G or 4-G network. Laszlo Pazonyi, Martel’s chief engineer, said officers will be able to control the video using a remote device.

The police department in Purcell, Mo. installed an MDE2 in a single vehicle, said Deputy Chief John Epperson, who had worked with other agencies that had multiple installations of this technology. He described the video it generates as “crisp, clean and clear” and praised the size of the monitor and brightness of the images.

In addition, the utility of the system went well beyond the images, Epperson said. As with Hastings, Epperson noted officer-friendly attributes, like easy video download to a server. In addition, he praised MDE2’s “Police Event Tagging Button,” that enables an officer to easily categorize police business incident such as a traffic stop; a driving under the influence (DUI) arrest; or other incident, and its “digital video evidence management software,” which enabled multiple search parameters (day, officer, name of the apprehended party).

Moreover, he was impressed by the ruggedness, as attested by its use by U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq (it is MIL-ST D-810 certified by the Department of Defense), and its transmission range, calibrated by the manufacturer at up to 2,000 feet from the vehicle. Plus the price was right.

“Price is a huge determining factor – you can get just about every accessory you need for less than a basic unit from the competition,” Epperson said.

His favorite accessories included a dual camera set up (one forward facing camera, the other focused on the back-seat suspect), ample data storage, and its Digital in Car Video Radar Interfacing feature, which automatically turns the camera on to capture drivers violating speed limits. He also noted that the 40 channels offered over a 2.4 GHz digital spread spectrum provided excellent, unimpeded service. “When another patrol unit pulls up next to mine, we’re not talking over each other,” he said.


Digital Ally, based in Overland, Kan., says it has upgraded the wireless transfer format for its DVM-750 from 802.11g, which can operate at speeds of more than 100 megabits per second, to 802.11n, which can operate at up to 600 Mbps and at greater distance. During 2010, the company introduced the HHC750, a handheld remote control option which can be used when the touch-screen options in the vehicle are not accessible, and the M-70 weather proofed exterior monitor.

The Rockdale Country, Ga. Sheriff’s Office installed the DVM-750 in 15 of its vehicles, said Deputy Sheriff David Ghee, who serves as quartermaster. “I think it’s a very good system,” said Ghee, lauding the excellent video and its direct download to a secure server. “We consider that evidence, and the least amount of hands that touch it, the less we have to worry about it.”

To further improve the system, Digital Ally is looking into restricting access to the interior and exterior cameras to officers with administrative privileges on the system, Ghee said. To date, whoever is inside the car can shut off one or both of the cameras. “We feel that it needs to be locked out,” he said, adding, Digital Ally “said that they would get to it.”