BREWER, Maine — There are two sides to every story, but with five digital cameras recording the scene there is little doubt about where the truth lies.

“It’s proof positive,” Brewer police Capt. Jason Moffitt said Thursday while showing off the new camera equipment installed in five of the department’s patrol vehicles. “It’s excellent evidence.”

Each vehicle has five Panasonic Arbitrator 360-degree digital cameras, which automatically activate whenever the blue lights are turned on, to capture videos from every point of view, Brewer Police Chief Perry Antone said Thursday. One faces front, one is aimed at the rear, there is one on each side and one that is focused on the back seat.

“It’s already proven its value in evidence collection,” the chief said of the mobile camera equipment, which was paid for with asset forfeiture funds received from successfully prosecuted drug cases.

One person recently complained that he was mistreated by an officer, saying he was calm during the traffic stop and the officer was disrespectful, but the video told a different story, Moffitt said.

“You see in the video they were kicking and screaming at the officer, saying things that wouldn’t help them in court,” the police captain said.
“Some of the backseat videos are pretty interesting.”

Each officer is given a wireless microphone and remote that automatically records audio and, with the push of a button, turns on the entire video recording system.

“I activate it by the remote button,” Sgt. Anthony Pinette said, holding a small pager-sized device with a red button on top. “When the [cruiser’s] lights come on, everything comes on.”

The system has its own processing unit in the vehicle and constantly is recording even when the system is not activated, Antone said.

“It has a back memory. As soon as we hit the lights, it records back 30 seconds,” the police chief said.

The front camera is mounted but it can be pulled down and moved, if needed, and the system is capable of capturing a still image, Moffitt said.
The units can record up to 32 hours of video, but nowhere near that amount is needed, he said.

“The moment an officer drives back into the station and parks, it automatically downloads any new videos into the system” installed at the police station, the police captain said.

The hard drive at the station has safeguards in place to ensure the digital images are secure, so when the tapes are used as evidence, “you can positively tell it hasn’t been tampered with,” Moffitt said.

By the time officers walk up to their work computers inside the police station from the sally port, the videos usually are already available to them.

The cameras and associated Panasonic Toughbooks laptop computers in the police vehicles cost about $65,000 and are the latest items purchased with forfeited drug money, Antone said.

The City Council created its asset forfeiture-seizure reserve account in April 2004, and over the years the approximately $700,000 received has been used to purchase four police vehicles, new guns, protective vests and other small items. The department is restricted in how the seized funds may be spent, the police chief said, explaining that they can be used for training, motor vehicle equipment or safety enhancements.

The Arbitrator cameras have wide-angle lenses that can zoom, adapt to low light and withstand varying temperatures, vibration and dust, Moffitt said.

The department has used other camera systems in the past, including ones years ago that used VHS tapes, but none could handle police work.

The Panasonic Arbitrator system “we found to be extremely reliable, rugged, and their warranty is excellent,” Moffitt said. “When you need it to work, it has to work immediately.

“It’s a great tool.”

62 replies on “New cruiser camera system gives Brewer police 360-degree eye on suspects”

  1. So much for Miranda, the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.  Now you will be recorded prior to being advised of your rights.  Remember to not say a single word to any policeman in Brewer.

    1. What does this have to do with the Miranda act? When you are in a public setting. I can record your activity if I desire to. A Brewer officer could pull you over and I could stop as well and record everything that took place.

      So please tell me how the police, who are doing the same thing is in violation of the Miranda act? You won’t because it is not. Officers have been recording conversation via audio recorders for a very long time and now they are just adding video to the mix.

      So you might think your rights are being violated but they are not.

      1. Really i recorded a incident downtown Bangor and was told it was illegal to record anyone without permission.  Per Bangor Police

          1. Well i thought so too, but the chief did not care, never returned my phone call, must be busy packing his office up

          2. I would not have pushed it if they said to stop recording. Getting arrested is not worth it, even if you are in the right. I’m very pro police and I would have asked what am I doing wrong but I would not have pushed it to the point of getting arrested.

          3. Never pushed it but they did confiscate my phone for evidence as what was being recorded was a crime in progress.  But they say its illegal.  Still have not got my phone back, but its ok

          4. I would like to say that I would push it.  I am not sure that I understand how one can be arrested for recording the police on a public street or on public property if the person recording is not obstructing.

            Then again, I know that some police officers can be very intimidating and I think that stopping the recording only continues the cycle of intimidation… 

          5. Good little sheep……awwwww. if a cop told you to jump off a cliff you’d probably do it.

          6. http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/17-A/title17-Asec511.html

            “D. Engages in visual surveillance in a public place by means of mechanical or electronic equipment with the intent to observe or photograph, or record, amplify or broadcast an image of any portion of the body of another person present in that place when that portion of the body is in fact concealed from public view under clothing and a reasonable person would expect it to be safe from surveillance”

          7. That has to with taking photos of people intimate “places” not recording or photographing people standing around in public places. If that were the case the news media could not take photos or videos of anything.

          8. There is a lot of confusion on this.  I have read many accounts of the police NOT wanting citizens to record their movements or activities while at the same time I read that it is perfectly legal.  I think one of the issues is that the police have massive powers of intimidation and can tell most people that they can’t photograph or record and the people will believe them.

            That is funny, though, that they said it’s illegal to record anyone without permission.   Thousands of people are recorded, monitored, tracked, and analyzed every day in this country by law enforcement as well as private companies.  (I saw a camera in the men’s room in Montreal once, by the way-right over a stall and at an angle that can look down the line of urinals…).  So, why can’t a private citizen ALSO photograph and record on the public streets, ESPECIALLY law enforcement?Here is an interesting clip of a woman being arrested for recording an arrest in front of her house while she was on her property: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7ZkFZkejv8 .

        1. Unfortunately it is legal to record anyone in a “public” setting; it happend at one of the complexes I manage…When a resident complained we were then in-turn told anything in a public setting can be more-or-less “publicized.”  I still think it is ridiculous when your life is broadcasted though-I do not think that is acceptable or even moral.  I hate it when people of law enforcement don’t stick up for the regular Joe who isn’t doing anything or hurting anyone.  >:P

          1. I think it’s ridiculous that we are recorded all the time in some places in this country.  I don’t like this ever-increasing mentality that the people of the United States are all suspect and must be carefully watched and monitored in the likely event that they will commit a crime.  It stinks.

            And Lord help us when they start looking for “bad guys” in American cities using unmanned drones in 2014….

        2. That is the “conversation” between third parties that he was talking about!

          Video without voice recording is a differant animal.

          1. Working on getting this fixed, not worried about phone anyways its deactivated and it was old but still the point is, they lied to me.  

        3. I would have asked them what statue or law they can recite that states that, I bet you will hear crickets.

          1. More likely than not you would have heard “sign this summons for obstruction of governmental administration “.

      2. Go up to a Brewer cop say,in the Hannaford parking lot,pull out your camera and just start snapping pictures or taking video. watch the hostile reaction you will get. I guarantee it,because it happend to me. I was threatened with conscification of my camera which is in direct violation of the Constitution.

    2. If you know anything about Miranda or your constitutional rights, you know this has NOTHING to do with that.  

      How about you just don’t commit crimes and then it won’t matter what you say.

      In a world were people accuse the cops of lying, stealing, abusing etc etc etc., this is common sense.  It protects us as citizens from bad cops AND lying crooks.  (And the dirty lawyers that take their money.)  It documents incidents as they actually happened and is not subject to human error. 

      1. Your third paragraph alludes to the instances where a citizen doesn’t commit a crime and might be in a situation where he or she is interacting with law enforcement and being recorded.  

        You do make a good point in that third paragraph, but how possible is it for someone to get a copy of his or her recorded interaction with the police?  The police recording these interactions and then being the holders of these recordings seems like it could be a conflict of interest in some cases.

    1.  Knowing that a camera is recording your every move will not only give those who are pulled over a 100% accurate account of what happened but it will also keep the officers honest.  Everyone is a little more honest and ethical when they know a camera is recording their every action.  I am not saying there are a lot of bad cops out there, but there are some and this is a great way to put an end to their shenanigans.

      1.  They aren’t protecting me at all, I protect myself. I only call them AFTER I take care of whatever it is. And I don’t need a few dozen cameras in my car to do it, either! You won’t find a video of where I stash the bodies on YouTube!

    1.  If you think this is over the top you have been in Maine way to damn long. Go to a real city and see what cops have on their cars there.  Maine cops are so far behind the times its pathetic.

      1. Are you saying that what the cops have in other cities is good?

        I like the idea of police officers being one of us and a friend to the community. I don’t like the idea of a police officer driving around, monitoring us from a quasi-military vehicle that records us and our license plates (and probably our faces, too, soon enough).

  2. Twenty years ago I would have said no, but there are so many drugged out melon heads today that might decide to chew your face off, I say go for it.

  3. Just like the $200,00+ police vehicle Portland just got I think this too is unnecessary. Wouldn’t this money be better spent trying to improve education or helping poor famalies get by? A little overkill in my eyes.

    1. Great point but keeping people uneducated with a poor education system makes them easier to control. 

  4. What happens in a public space is fair game, they can film you and you can film them.

    1. Except that the man who recorded the beating of Mr. King did not work for the police.  Having recordings of illegal actions and behavior by officers in the hands of the department for which the officers work doesn’t give me confidence.

  5. I think it is a wonderful Idea to have camera’s in police vehicles. Having video evidence of criminal activity by criminals and those who swear to uphold the law. Some police due violate your rights and break the law as well. Video is the best evidence. 

    Educate yourself about your rights with an encounter with police. The ACLU has a booklet that breaks some of your rights down for you on their website. Don’t allow yourself to be bullied into providing information and do not incriminate yourself with answering questions. Educate yourself about the statures in your town/state. Prepare to quote the law and case examples! If you are worried about your privacy etc etc. Just remember drones now patrol our skies.  You have little to no privacy anymore. There are eyes and ears everywhere. A little 1933 era don’t you think?

    1. I think that overhead surveillance of private citizens by unmanned drones won’t start until 2015.  http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-drone-faa-20120430,0,1969574.story

  6. Good, Police officers have a hard enough job now as it is. I can’t wait to watch bath-salters getting tazered  on youtube in Brewer.

  7. Hey maybe you can also use this to capture plates of people who don’t pull over/pull out in front of a cruiser when they have their lights engaged?

  8. Fair is fair and now both parties to the interaction will be on record, which will greatly impvove the quality of justice and the actions of the officers. 

  9. Unfortunatly, when the police are in the wrong, the recordings will suddenly not be there.

  10. Too bad when the police are in the wrong, there will be no recording to be found.

    I think that if a recording can be used against you, then, likewise if they “forget” to record, or turns up “missing” then anything you are charged with should be thrown out

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