The problem blends with the transit of migrants who cross the region in search of the American drea...
BRASÍLIA, Brazil – Federal District police officers seem to have stepped out of the movie RoboCop.
Since Nov. 26, small cameras have been mounted to the eyewear, uniforms or caps of 18 members of the Motorized Tactical Patrol Battalion (Rotam), an elite group of Military Police from the Federal District. Eighteen Axon Flex kits, imported from the United States, are being tested by the police force.
In December, police found a large amount of narcotics on a cyclist while they were on patrol in Ceilândia, a city 35 kilometers (21.7 miles) from Brasília.
Lt. Col. Leonardo Sant’Anna, a Rotam commander, said it’s common for criminals and narco-traffickers to hide drugs and get rid of evidence.
This time, however, the entire operation was recorded.
The equipment helps Rotam investigate frequent crimes in the region, such as express kidnappings, narco-trafficking and shootings.
The cameras record up to 12 hours before they need recharging. Videos can be streamed to a Smartphone, also included in the kit, and downloaded to a central database in the battalion’s headquarters. The time-stamped images identify the police officer who created the recording. The agent can turn on the audio any time during the operation.
The camera costs US$1,200 in the U.S. and isn’t available to the general public in Brazil. It also features a buffer system, which stores 30 seconds of video before the recording system is turned on, Sant’Anna says.
“Thus, for example, if an attempted robbery is observed, images seen before turning on the equipment to record will not be lost,” Sant’Anna says.
The biggest expectation is the technology, if acquired and implemented in the Federal District, will help in the fight against narco-trafficking. Suspects often claim they are physically abused or embarrassed by police officers in an attempt to get charges dropped, Sant’Anna said.
“Criminals have found that they can curb the actions of the Military Police by … lying, given the police’s challenges in presenting evidence,” Sant’Anna says. “Now, that’s over. Video recorded by police officers is a very powerful tool against criminals.”
Police protection is another advantage of recording videos with the kit, as police officers aren’t offered legal assistance by their departments, Sant’Anna adds.
“Police officers always are vulnerable to the possibility of having to prove the legality of their actions,” he says. “If a bully, who decides to insult and attack citizens, needs to be restrained and arrested, scratches from the handcuffs or marks resulting from restraint are held against the police officer and also against the accusers. This needs to end.”
Rotam’s 18 police officers underwent special training to test the Axon Flex kits, which the Military Police could acquire about four to five months after placing an order.
The initial expectation is that, in addition to all police officers in the Motorized Tactical Patrol Battalion, other Military Police units from the Federal District also will use the cameras.
In January, the Traffic Battalion started testing six of the 18 cameras in use by Rotam.
Sant’Anna says the technology may also be useful for the Civil Police, especially in search and seizure cases, crime scene videos made by forensic teams, drunken driving checkpoints and prisoner escorts.
Vasco Furtado, computer science professor at the Universidade de Fortaleza (Unifor) and member of the Brazilian Forum for Public Safety, says that technology shouldn’t be seen as a solution to security problems.
“In general, everything that helps control [crime] is welcome. Sometimes, however, we rely too much on technology, as if it could solve problems that are structural,” Furtado says. “Technology is an aid; it serves as a management tool and should support organizational change.”