Aubree Taylor is a model of efficiency. She stands straight and speaks crisply, no energy or words wasted.
Taylor just recently made investigator at the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, and before that, spent about a year and a half testing body-worn cameras for the agency. The department does not yet have the money to outfit deputies.
“It was great for me, because I knew I would have what I needed on camera – if I needed to play something back, or I needed it for court,” she said.
Taylor has tried a handful of camera models so far, evaluating them for durability, ease of use and battery life. On a 12-hour shift, she said, battery life is particularly important.
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“Sometimes you’re out on a scene for hours and hours on end, and let’s just say you happen to forget to stop recording – or your situation is just that intense that you have that much footage you need captured on this body camera – and then yet you still have six hours left of shift, now your body camera is no good for you,” she said.
When Taylor uses a body cam, she puts it on before leaving for work. She turns it on before getting out of her patrol car at traffic stops, domestic disputes or other situations that could turn violent.
She said she tends to forget the camera’s operating once she goes into action. When she does think about the camera, she views it as reassuring.
“I feel comfort knowing that I am recording, because that gives me extra security – knowing that I’m doing my job and I have proof that I’m doing my job. I welcome anybody videotaping me.”
Standing 5-feet-7, Taylor determined the best way for her to wear a body cam was near the center of her chest. But different things work for different officers, she said.
“At first, I put it down here on my lower belt,” she said. “It was a lot of trial and error. I can see how some officers would get a little frustrated with it, and would have a little resistance, because it’s not really user-friendly.”
Though Taylor considers herself to be tech-savvy, the cameras presented a learning curve. For one model she tested, it took three days just to learn the software and figure out how to get footage off the camera and into the accompanying system, as well as how to retrieve that footage to burn a disk.
For officers who aren’t as comfortable learning new gadgets, she said the transition could be even more frustrating.
But some of the people she encounters in the field are outright uncomfortable being filmed.
“I have encountered resistance with the body camera,” Taylor said. “I’ve had some people tell me to turn them off. I’ve had others step to the side to get out of the camera view. I have seen more resistance with people who are being recorded (than with) the officers who are testing them to wear.”
Body cams are one more step in the evolving business of law enforcement, she said. But the new tools aren’t going to become the focus of how she does her job.
“If I’m in an urgent situation and the seat belt catches the camera and it happens to fall on the ground, I have to take care of business,” she said. “I still have an obligation to protect and serve – whether I have a camera on my chest or not.”