KING CITY — Gun-mounted cameras have been added to the technology in use by officers of the King City Police Department, the city announced last Thursday.
The department has purchased a total of 19 cameras at an approximate total cost of $12,000, making King City the first police department in California to implement the gun cameras made by Viridian.
“Adding this new technology is another tool for them to utilize to be more accountable to our community and also protect our officers,” said Mayor Mike LeBarre at the June 23 press conference. “This addition to their tools highlights the fact that they will never stop being better law enforcement for our community.”
LeBarre noted the city has seen “dramatic decreases” across the board in all crime rates in recent years.
The cameras are also in use by individual officers in Los Angeles County and by the Los Angeles Port Authority, explained Brian Hedeen, president of Viridian Weapon Technologies.
“This product was initiated out of a clear need in the world today,” Hedeen said. “The need for gun cameras has never been more evident.”
A video from an officer-involved shooting in Texas was played at the press conference to show both the officer’s body cam footage and the view from his pistol.
The officer had pulled over a driver, who drew a shotgun and fired at him. The body cam bounced as the officer retreated to cover in the shootout, and was also blocked at times by the officer’s arms and weapons. Once drawn, the pistol camera showed the officer’s aim.
The two sets of footage were able to tell a more complete story of the incident.
“This is an augmentation to our current body cam system,” said Robert Masterson, King City chief of police. “A large concern with body cams is an officer’s standard stance tends to cover the body cam. That’s a critical piece of information that a jury is now demanding to see in litigation and criminal proceedings.”
Hedeen added, “The Viridian weapon-mounted camera was designed specifically to capture officer-involved shootings, and show exactly what the officer sees. We feel this is an essential point of view that is missing from most officer-involved shootings today.”
The camera records automatically as soon as the weapon is drawn from its holster, has an unobstructed under-barrel view of what the officer is aiming at, and comes at an individual price point of approximately $400, which Hedeen said is “about 90 percent less expensive than traditional body cams.” These factors combine to give police “automatic, unobstructed video evidence” of their incidents where a gun is drawn.
Masterson said King City updated its body cam system in 2018, and then looked into Viridian in February 2019. They ordered a unit for an officer to test for six months to see how it fared in everyday use.
“We made the order and finalized the order in December of 2019, then Covid hit, and our rollout was delayed,” Masterson said. “Now that the restrictions are being released, we got the product in, we finally got the holsters in, and we’ve rolled it out today.”
Masterson noted the device not only helped in situations when an officer’s weapon was drawn, but proved to be a training tool.
“We found that we could capture deficiencies in an officer’s shooting at the range,” Masterson said. “… Things like clearing buildings where an officer would miss clearing a building.”
In the end, the department decided to purchase the devices as another way to be transparent to the community.
King City has 17 sworn officers, including Chief Masterson. He explained that is one for every officer’s weapon so cameras don’t have to be switched between officers, and that there are an additional two units as backup in case of malfunction.
Hedeen said departments could implement the technology as fast as they wish, with budget being the only typical hurdle. King City’s cost of $12,000 is planned to be paid off in installments over the next three years.