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Police head-cam TV show debuts in US

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Reality TV took its next step at the weekend with the inaugural broadcasts in the USA of new show Police POV, featuring video footage from headcams worn by cops on the job.

The first episodes of Police POV were broadcast on Sunday night by Time Warner channel truTV (motto: "Not reality. Actuality") which features court telly, police action and suchlike. Police POV would seem to involve a product placement deal with famous electric stungun company TASER International, less well known as maker of the AXON on-officer vidcam recording headset - which is used by all the cops in the series.

Taser issued a tinned quote from Rick Smith, its CEO, regarding the new show on Friday:

Too often, law enforcement is characterized in a negative light by the news media, which tends to focus on controversial allegations made against law enforcement. POLICE POV will provide a new platform of long-form television to show the public the challenges and heroic actions of law enforcement, recorded from the visual perspective of the men and women who put their lives on the line every day.

The idea of putting cams on cops has been percolating for some years now, with various trials carried out. London's Metropolitan police have experimented with the idea, though in their case some of the kit caught fire in use rather as in the various personal gadgetry related in-trouser infernos which plague modern portable electronics. Various forces across the States have also tried out cop-cam tech, and the idea of police gun-cameras activated whenever a weapon is drawn has also been discussed.

In one case in Arkansas, police headcam video was used to retrospectively approve a fatal shooting by an officer, though such footage isn't yet common. Police thus far seem torn between being able to show their side of a story when they're in the right and perhaps stitching themselves up in other situations.

The Taser AXON's recording is started and stopped by its wearer using a chest-mounted button, but the manufacturer contends that this is nothing to do with permitting cops to edit their records on the fly: instead it's to prevent the secure, evidence-worthy upload archives from becoming choked with hours of footage of police-car dashboards, desks piled high with paperwork, doughnut shops etc.

The advent of Police POV might seem unlikely to advance the debate much further: truTV has something of a reputation for over-use of reconstructions and staged scenes in its other reality actuality programming, and certainly if the sample footage is anything to go by the cops featured are accompanied by camera crews. ®

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