Axon body cameras making Texas schools safer
New Axon body cameras for each School Resource Officer
Axon supports law enforcement and the military with smart weapons, cameras, and evidence gathering and management technology
Faces can be blurred and voices masked to protect privacy
The Austin Independent School District in Texas educates more than 80,000 students in 129 school communities. The Austin Independent School District Police Department employs 84 full-time police officers. Those officers include 43 school resource officers (SROs). Two SROs are assigned to every high school campus. One SRO is assigned to every middle school campus. The department’s SROs have been using body-worn cameras for over a decade.
This year, the department received a shipment of new Axon body cameras for each officer. The cameras will help SROs in the wide variety of situations they face: students merely having a bad day (didn’t we all?!); students out of control; and even aggravated or sexual assault.
Axon, the manufacturer
Axon operated for many years as TASER International. Their mission? To protect life. How do they do it?
…with Smart Weapons that protect life in the moment of conflict, cameras the depict the truth and help prevent civil unrest, and automated reporting and evidence management.
Axon’s cameras are used in 37 major United States cities. Agencies have described an 88% drop in complaints after officers began wearing Axon’s body cameras.
The Axon Body 2 cameras being used by the department are always in standby mode and can be turned on by an SRO at the click of a button. The camera can record in low-light and HD. Its automatic tuning and noise reduction features make voices more distinct. They are built to handle extreme weather and brutal conditions while recording for over 12 hours on a single shift.
The ability to tag in-field means important moments in a video can be marked for future reference. Audio recording can be disabled to support situations requiring dual-party consent.
Body cams in a school setting
Axon’s equipment is used in a wide variety of law enforcement and even military settings. But these body cams are being used in schools filled with students. That means different considerations come into play.
Because so many of the faces that will be recorded on these cameras will belong to children, the importance of privacy must be balanced with the importance of evidence gathering. Axon’s new software allows them to blur faces and disguise voices.
The department and the school district will have to develop policies and procedures for the public release of videos and use of evidence collected. What about the parents of a child involved in an incident that is captured on video? Sgt. Pickford of the department says the department generally permits parents to see camera footage involving their children:
At a minimum, there should be a standard policy for releasing that video to the families of any kids that have been involved.
Who is served?
In moments of crisis or chaos, it’s reasonable to miss things or to perceive them from a specific and limited perspective. Axon body cameras will support SROs and the public by helping them see exactly what happened from an unbiased eye.
New and consistent equipment across the department will serve and support the SROs by allowing uniformity across all locations and communities.
Students, staff, and all community members are served by technology designed to capture and preserve the truth of interactions. Preservation of truth allows accountability and learning, two things that will make schools safer.
The latest at Axon
Axon’s commitment to supporting safety in public spaces extends to the use of virtual reality-based training “to equip law enforcement with the tools needed to protect life.” To that end, Axon has appointed the former head of Facebook’s Virtual Reality Division, Caitlin Kalinowski, to its Board of Directors.
A deeper dive – Related reading from the 101:
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