Body camera industry under pressure after George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s death ::

– Police body cameras have come under scrutiny following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, pressuring manufacturers to do more to convince wary law enforcement ’embrace the technology – as well as reassure the public that body cameras improve police accountability.

In the Taylor and Floyd cases, cities had previously purchased body cameras from Axon, the nation’s largest police body camera supplier, according to industry analysts. But Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said Taylor’s murder in March was not filmed because officers at the scene either did not turn on their body cameras or were not wearing them at all.

Axon, which also makes tasers, suggests that this scenario would be next to impossible with its latest technology.

The Axon Body 3, which went on sale a year ago, activates automatically when officers draw their firearms or Taser, according to Sydney Siegmeth, Axon’s vice president of communications. It can also broadcast live footage for police supervisors to review and respond to in real time, she said.

“A supervisor knows if a Taser or a firearm is drawn, and [they] will receive an automatic alert and be able to browse this live stream, ”Siegmeth told CNN Business. “He provides you with a map so you can see where your officers are. “

To date, Axon has said it has contracts with 49 of the 79 major cities in North America, including some in Canada and Mexico. Competitors Motorola, Panasonic, Samsung, L3, Getac and China’s Shenzhen together have less market share in the United States than Axon, according to industry analyst Scott Berg, chief executive of financial firm Needham & Company.

Axon’s share price jumped 20% after Floyd’s death on Memorial Day, and it climbed again following last week’s grand jury decision not to directly indict any officer in Taylor’s death, 26 years.

The deaths of Floyd and Taylor, according to the company, forced it to improve the way it does business.

Restore confidence

Four years ago, says Axon, his biggest challenge was convincing police departments and suspicious unions that wearing body cameras would help them do their jobs better. Since then, police body cameras have become an essential tool for services across the country, but they have also been the subject of controversy when police withhold images from body cameras or neglect to turn their cameras on in places. high profile cases.

As a result, the corporate challenge following the deaths of Taylor and Floyd has convinced advocates of police reform that body cameras improve officer accountability.

“After the George Floyd tragedy, we thought a lot as a company,” Siegmeth said. “One of the things we determined was that we needed to work better with communities, not just with the police.”

In July, Axon hired Regina Holloway, a former defense lawyer with a background in police-community relations, to take on the role of vice president of community impact, a new position. Holloway joined Axon from the NYU Policing Project, which was created to strengthen police department accountability and seek community input.

Since then, Holloway has said that she and Axon CEO Rick Smith have been holding virtual meetings with community leaders in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles to discuss ways their business can improve transparency and accountability. police responsibility.

The meetings are part of a nationwide campaign planned for Axon. Since Floyd’s death, Smith has also participated in more than 100 panel discussions with community and law enforcement groups to find out how the company’s technology can better meet their needs, Siegmeth said.

Recommendations from those discussions, says Axon, will be unveiled at the end of October.

Body cameras can be commonly used by police in most major US cities today, but the industry still has growth potential, according to Berg, the industry analyst. The police body camera industry was valued at $ 443 million in 2018 and is expected to grow to $ 1.5 billion by 2025, according to Market Research Future.

Holloway said part of his role is to help bridge the gap between police and activists, and reassure communities that body cameras make police more accountable.

“It’s not about the community bending to the will of the police,” Holloway told CNN Business. “It is about us being partners in public safety. We are trying to bring this collective equality to the police services.”

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