Police departments are testing new technology that's taking aim at the estimated $1 billion annual U.S. market for law enforcement camera hardware and software — gun-mounted cameras.
Body cameras became popular after police shot dead an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, MO in 2014 but the devices have received mixed reviews from civil rights leaders, who have questioned the body camera program policies of some police departments, and law enforcement leaders, who have complained that their line of sight is easily blocked.
Cameras on guns provide a better point of view than body-worn cameras, since they are usually aimed directly at the suspect and are less likely to be blocked when an officer shields their torso behind something, say proponents of the technology such as Centinel Solutions, one of the first companies to deliver the devices to police departments for testing.
Centinel CEO Max Kramer set out to build a "more intelligent" system following conversations with law enforcement while studying at New York University in 2014. Centinel's camera fits with the vast majority of gun holsters and its software complies with law enforcement protocols for access and logging files.
"We're in the business of having an unbiased tool which can solve one of the most contentious problems in the U.S. right now," said Kramer.
Centinel's camera mounts under the barrel of the gun and starts rolling as soon as a weapon is drawn. Video is encrypted and can be stored locally or in the cloud using Amazon's AWS Government Cloud infrastructure. The drawing of a weapon also triggers an alert, sent via a mobile app, to a desktop portal manned by an officer back at a police office.