Signal Sidearm is a Bluetooth-based technology that could potentially be used by police departments across Hampton Roads. The technology is designed to automatically activate a body camera on a person as soon as he/ she pulls their gun from the holster.
Some departments, however, have concerns regarding the safety of the technology and one has even stopped using it for this reason.
The Suffolk Police Department currently use the Signal Sidearm technology. The technology is understood to be under consideration by three other departments on Hampton Roads for potential use. Suffolk Police Department, however, declined an interview request by WAVY-TV to know how it works.
Virginia Beach Police stops using Signal Sidearm
Virginia Beach Police was known to be using the technology till they stopped, apparently on account of safety concerns.
In the case of the shooting and killing of Donovan Lynch by a Virginia Beach police officer, no footage was found from the camera on the officer. It was revealed that their existing holsters could not properly accommodate the Signal Sidearm device. This resulted in the department procuring holsters that could, and started using Safariland model holsters. When an officer’s gun was accidentally fired during a struggle with the suspect n a homicide case, these too were pulled out. It was indicated by the police chief that this was done because of a safety issue caused by a defect with the holster.
Questions to the department on whether the Signal Sidearm technology will be reconsidered by them for future use were not answered.
Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department continue with Signal
The Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department has been using the technology for almost a year and a half. They explained that the way it had been set up for them was that the camera switches on not only on their pulling the gun from the holster, but also when they turn on the blue emergency lights of the car or even when they pull their taser.
Capt. Harris explained that “In a life-or-death situation, they don’t have to think about [turning their camera on]. There’s a lot that goes through our mind when we respond to a call. There’s 15 or 20 different options that could take place – good or bad.”
Harris has been categorical is stating that the use of Signal Sidearm has resulted in accountability being affixed within his unit. According to him, “We’re in a time where we want to be as transparent as possible. It gives us the opportunity to have that interaction on a daily basis with the people we come in contact with.”
Initially implemented at a cost of $200K, it is now paid for by the city as part of a larger contract.
According to Harris, if it helps his officers stay safe, the cost of the technology should not even be a consideration. “We have stress, we have things to think about, sometimes when that critical call becomes extremely dangerous, we have to laser focus to make sure we go home to our families safely.”