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Panasonic’s next generation of mobile digital video: the Toughbook Arbitrator 360
Today’s public safety officers have more technology in their patrol vehicles than ever before. One such technology is digital video systems. Video increases officer safety and captures evidence, which are critical components of public safety. The Toughbook® Arbitrator 360º™ is Panasonic’s third-generation mobile digital video system, specifically engineered from law enforcement feedback. The Arbitrator 360 can be used with or without a Toughbook laptop. It is specially engineered to excel in the demanding situations first responders find themselves in every day. This fully integrated system offers video capture, storage and transfer. In addition, it is designed to work with back-end software for seamless video management, including archiving and retrieving. The main camera on the Arbitrator 360 provides a 68.4 degrees wide-angle view of its environment, giving officers the flexibility to move in and out of traffic and danger zones while still keeping “in frame.” In addition, five cameras can also be purchased to create a split-screen field of view that can display up to five different angles inside and outside the patrol car. With 16 different customizable action-based triggers, an officer can initiate the recording and documentation of an event automatically once it occurs.
The Arbitrator 360 can be easily mounted on a patrol car’s console or in the trunk. Other features include: temperature, vibration and dust-resistant; low-light camera for viewing in the dark; wide-angle lens for larger field of view (nearly 70 degrees with just one camera); and 220x digital zoom for enhanced surveillance capabilities. It also sports 360 degrees viewing and recording with up to five cameras. The 128GB SD card storage capacity allows for more recording time, with up to 1,296 hours of recording time at one frame per second. Two 1Gbps Ethernet makes for faster data uploads, while two USB 2.0 interface ports make for faster upload and transfer of profiles. All these features combine for high-quality image resolution and video compression.
The Arbitrator CommandR™, the Toughbook Arbitrator 360’s new software system, was designed to easily adapt and configure to an agency’s individual standard operating procedures. A common user interface allows officers and administrators to view evidence both in a patrol vehicle and back at the station with equal setup and functionality. With access to video files set to the rights and privileges of the administrator, Arbitrator CommandR allows documented video to turn into manageable events, providing a strong link in a chain of evidence.
Additional features of the software include: five customizable fields in the front-end application to eliminate terminology changes; classification options enable seamless archiving and retrieving of data. Auditing reports ensure officers know where their video is and who is viewing it.
The wireless microphone attaches easily to an officer’s uniform and can transmit quality audio up to 1,000 feet from the receiver. Other features include: auto scanning for clearest communication channels and auto syncs between wireless microphone and receiver and up to 95 channels available in the open 2400 MHz-2483MHz band.
Lincoln, NE Police Department
The Lincoln, NE Police Department has 327 officers and serves a population of approximately 275,000 within the city of Lincoln and surrounding county residents. Lincoln PD has had a long association with Panasonic Toughbooks. According to Sergeant Todd Beam, Lincoln PD has been using Toughbooks since 1998. They used the first generation Arbitrator in two vehicles, and prior to that, Lincoln PD used a VHS tape-based system. “It was somewhat fortuitous that we didn’t move forward sooner, because the Arbitrator 360 is so much better,” Beam said.
The first test installation of the Arbitrator 360 at Lincoln PD was on Aug. 4, 2009. One of the first test systems Panasonic put out, it was originally designed as a small-scale pilot program, but Beam says his department arranged to keep it. They now have funding to purchase more Arbitrator 360s. Their “test” Arbitrator 360 was a five-camera system, with one front- facing, one rear-facing, two side cameras and a backseat camera. According to Beam, the cameras worked so well they wanted to use the system for evidentiary purposes.
One example of how the Arbitrator 360 was used in a legal case for Lincoln PD involved an Internal Affairs investigation. A citizen claimed mistreatment, but the camera on the side of the cruiser captured all the interaction between the citizen and the Lincoln PD officer. So the department had documentation/proof to disprove the claim, which exonerated the officer. “It’s quite valuable,” Beam stated.
At first the officers at Lincoln PD weren’t sure if they would like the multiple camera system, but now they see the real advantages to it, especially being able to see what a suspect is doing in the backseat of the patrol car, which can be very incriminating. The camera system is always recording, but there are “trigger events” the officers can use for “pre-event time” recording, which captures video prior to an event.
The data is recorded to a solid-state memory card (SSMC). Before the Arbitrator 360 system, Beam said the Lincoln PD used to physically transport the data via videotape to the server and uploaded it. Today, the department uses a Wi-Fi access point, so the officers simply drive within range of the station and the video data is wirelessly uploaded to the server. Beam said the Arbitrator 360 is easy to use and very intuitive, and requires a minimal amount of training. The department’s officers also are impressed with the audio and video quality, especially considering “the distance between the cruiser and the officer’s microphone,” Beam noted. Because the system is automatically recording, the officers do not have to do anything special to start it. “I’d like to have an Arbitrator 360 in every cruiser,” Beam said.
Published in Public Safety IT, Nov/Dec 2009
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