Police Officer Legal Risk from a wide Field of View in a Bodyworn

Police Officer Legal Risk
from a wide Field of View
in a Bodyworn Camera
1484 Brockett Road, Tucker, GA 30084
www.Bodyworn.com
Police Officer Legal Risk from a Wide Field of View
Table of Contents
Biology of Human Eyesight ...................................................................................................... 4 Video Recorder Peripheral Vision Clarity ................................................................................. 6 A Police Officer is at a significant Visual disadvantage ............................................................. 6 A Police Officer will keep a primary subject in view ................................................................. 6 A video camera with a Wide Field of View puts an Officer at Legal Risk ................................... 7 The Legal and Financial Risks of a Wide Field of View are Significant ....................................... 7 Summary -­‐ A Wide Field of View is a Legal danger to a Police Officer ...................................... 7 © 2014 Utility – All Rights Reserved
Page 2 of 7
Police Officer Legal Risk from a Wide Field of View
Overview
A number of recent body-worn camera Requests for Proposal have included a
lockout specification of a minimum number of degrees for a body-worn video
camera Field of View. In general the impression is given that the wider the field
of view, the better. This paper argues that bigger is not better. Instead, a
narrower field of view similar to a police officer’s field of view is better. In a
police officer’s peripheral vision, detail is invisible. Video camera recording of
peripheral vision detail is crystal clear on a video playback. A Police Officer
should only be held accountable for visual detail he can actually see.
This paper draws from a number of facts about the biology of the human eye
that can easily be confirmed through an internet search. The recent events in
Ferguson, MO and the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, NY have ignited a
national controversy about racial profiling, police accountability, and public
trust in 21st Century Policing. There is a general consensus that police officers
should wear and use body-worn video cameras. However, it is critical to
recognize there are fundamental differences in visual acuity between human
eyesight and a video camera. A video camera with a wide field of view will
record video with clear peripheral vision detail that the human eye simply
cannot see. A video camera with a wide field of view puts a police officer at
significant legal risk, because it can clearly record what the human eye cannot
see. Police Officers should not be put at legal risk because of the biology of
human eyesight.
© 2014 Utility – All Rights Reserved
Page 3 of 7
Police Officer Legal Risk from a Wide Field of View
Biology of Human Eyesight The human eye is remarkable, but it has limitations. A human being only sees
detail clearly in their direct line of sight. “Foveal" Vision is where 20/20 visual
acuity is possible. Foveal Vision is 1° on either side of line of sight (what you are
looking at). Furthermore, visual acuity declines by 50% for each 2.5° shift
away from the center line of sight.
The maximum effective field of view for a police officer is no more than the 18°
Macular vision range — 9° on either side of the line of sight. Any event
happening outside of the 18° macular range of vision is in peripheral vision. As a
practical matter, no human being -- including police officers – can distinguish
any detail in peripheral vision. Motion can be determined in peripheral vision,
but not detail. This is easy for anyone to verify. A person looking straight ahead
can see motion in their peripheral vision. But a person looking straight ahead
cannot tell how many fingers a person in peripheral vision is holding up.
© 2014 Utility – All Rights Reserved
Page 4 of 7
Police Officer Legal Risk from a Wide Field of View
This chart is another way to depict visual clarity in central line of sight compared
to peripheral vision. The area in green – where the person is looking – can see
details clearly. In the Paracentral area in light green, visual acuity drops by 50%.
In the yellow zone Near-Peripheral zone very little detail can be identified. In
the pink Mid-Peripheral and red Far-Peripheral zones, no detail can be identified
by a human eye – only motion at best. The human eye’s effective field of view is
less than 18°. Anyone can personally test and confirm this assertion.
The biology of why the human eye can see detail in central line of sight but not
in peripheral vision has to do with the distribution of Cone and Rod cells on the
eye’s retina. Cone cells are more concentrated in the center of the retina, and
can detect detail. Rod cells are distributed around the center of the retina, and
can better detect motion and light. The details of human eye biology are
beyond the scope of this paper, but information about Cone and Rod cells can
be easily verified from any number of published sources.
© 2014 Utility – All Rights Reserved
Page 5 of 7
Police Officer Legal Risk from a Wide Field of View
Video Recorder Peripheral Vision Clarity In very sharp contrast to the human eye, a video camera can record almost
perfect clarity across the entire field of view of the video camera. Detail
captured by the video camera is just as good in the outer peripheral zones as in
the center of the recorded video. So a video camera can detect and record
event and object detail in peripheral line of sight regions that are far, far better
than a human eye could ever see.
A Police Officer is at a significant Visual disadvantage So it is certain that a police officer cannot see peripheral detail as well as a video
camera can record it. Because a police officer can only see detail for what he is
looking at directly, detail about events and objects in peripheral vision areas are
not clear or invisible to the police officer.
This detail recognition disadvantage is further compounded by the fact that a
police officer has to make split-second life or death decisions while under
extreme stress. On the other hand, a grand jury or a trial jury watch a video
recording that provides clear detail across the entire field of view. The grand
jury or the trial jury is not under high stress, does not have to make a split
second decision, and has the luxury of being able to replay the video multiple
times to look at detail. This is a luxury that a Police Officer – or any human being
at the scene – does not have.
A Police Officer will keep a primary subject in view The Tueller Drill is well known in the police world. This drill shows that an
attacker with a knife who charges a police officer from 21 feet or less will be able
to attack the police officer before he has time to draw his weapon and fire. So
any person located within 21 feet of a Police Officer potentially could kill the
Police Officer. It is therefore reasonable to expect that a Police Officer located
within 21 feet of a potential aggressor is going to keep a close watch on a
person who could be a lethal threat. Therefore a Police Officer is not going to
recognize details of the scene in his peripheral vision. However, a video
recorder will reliably capture scene detail across the video camera’s entire field
of view.
© 2014 Utility – All Rights Reserved
Page 6 of 7
Police Officer Legal Risk from a Wide Field of View
A video camera with a Wide Field of View puts an Officer at Legal Risk As a result, a video camera with a wide field of view puts the officer at significant
legal risk. The police officer has to make a split-second decision based upon
what his personal eyesight can perceive. Yet the police officer’s actions and
reactions are subject to “after the fact” scrutiny from video recordings that
provide far more peripheral scene detail than the Police Officer could ever
possibly see. This puts the Police Officer at very significant legal risk of being
“Monday Morning Quarterbacked” by the public, press, grand juries, supervisors,
political and media commentators, prosecutors, and most importantly juries.
The Legal and Financial Risks of a Wide Field of View are Significant The Legal and Financial Risk is significant. Beyond internal reprimands,
suspensions, and getting fired, Police Officers can be and sometimes are
charged with felonies up to and including homicide. Police Officers are also at
risk of civil lawsuits where the standard of proof to obtain a judgment against
the police officer is lower than in a criminal case. Legal defense costs are often
six figure sums, even if they are eventually found not guilty. So even if a Police
Officer successful defends against a criminal charge and/or a civil lawsuit, they
may be ruined financially. So even a “win” is often a devastating personal
financial loss.
Summary -­‐ A Wide Field of View is a Legal danger to a Police Officer The biology of the human eye compared to a video recorder with a wide field of
view puts a police officer at significant legal risk whenever there is an Incident.
The solution is to have a video recorder with a field if view that is similar to a
Police Officer’s effective field of view. A bodyworn camera field of view should
be limited to less than 50°. This accounts for a police officer slightly changing
his line of sight during an Incident – while always keeping the primary subject in
view. Even then, the public, press, citizens, judges, and juries should recognize
that detail in peripheral vision is unclear or invisible to any human being. Police
Officers are human beings just like the rest of us.
© 2014 Utility – All Rights Reserved
Page 7 of 7
Download PDF
Similar pages