With the recent public attention on police brutality more and more departments are equipping their officers with body cameras. It’s a smart move since nothing dispels the protestations of a bereaved parent that their “perfect little angel” wasn’t actually actively shooting at police officers and dealing drugs like cold hard video proof. The folks at Taser have taken a stab at this market before with the Axon Flex, but their latest offering — The Axon Body 2 — seeks to provide an all-in-one solution that is ready to go out of the box and simple as easy as ordering Chinese takeout . . .
Those familiar with the Axon Flex and other similar body camera systems will understand the basics of how this works. The officer (or whomever) straps the camera onto their gear in the morning and turns it on. The camera then starts buffering the last two minutes of footage and alerts the office when everything is ready. During the day, if something happens that merits recording, the officer taps the large button in the center of the device. The camera immediately saves the previous two minutes of footage (from the buffer) and starts recording everything that follows until the officer turns the camera off again.
In the box, you don’t get much. There’s the camera itself, a charging cable, and clothing mount (which we’ll talk about in a second). A quick start guide is included as well, but the guide was for a previous generation device and none of the information was helpful in getting this specific model to work. Not off to a good start there.
Notably missing from the box is any form of software to download the videos off the device. The Axon series of cameras were designed with police officers in mind, meaning that they assume an individual officer is going to get the box and use the camera. In other words, someone who generally shouldn’t be able to alter the video in order to maintain its integrity. The software proper is available only to police departments and only after contacting Taser directly.
Taser provides an app-based system to view the video from the device that’s accessible by the officer on their mobile phone. The officer can pair the device to their phone to view and stream the video to Taser’s cloud storage system, but there’s no mechanism to download any of the videos and no way to alter them. The system uses the phone’s WiFi to connect to the camera, so if you rely on WiFi for connectivity, you can either connect your camera or be on the internet but not both at the same time.
With the Axon Body 2, the concept is that the camera can be attached directly to whatever outer garment the officer has on that day. The star shaped mounting plate (above left) is comprised of two halves, a front and back, with very strong magnets to keep them together. The officer sandwiches their outer garment between these two halves and then mounts the camera to the outer half.
I like the idea. It makes mounting cameras a snap even when the officer’s uniform doesn’t have any MOLLE attachment points or built-in loops for this purpose. It also makes it easy to mount the camera on standard polo shirts or plain t-shirts, something that can be useful for bicycle patrols and other special units.
Once mounted, the camera generally stays put. Rubber pads on the mount keep it from sliding around on the clothing, and the magnets are strong enough to hold the camera under moderate physical activity. That said, it’s still just a magnet. The camera can be easily ripped off the shirt if it gets caught on a fence while climbing or on a seatbelt when getting out of a car. The attachment method is good enough, but not ideal.
What isn’t really good enough: the angle you get.
I liked the idea of attaching a camera to the officer’s safety glasses, as Taser did with their last generation gear. That made sense. This setup, though, is less than ideal. It gives a relatively good view of what’s going on when the officer has their arms as their sides, but as soon as you start doing anything with your hands the field of view gets obscured.
You’ll get a great view of the clipboard while writing a ticket, but you’ll completely miss the suspect rooting around in his car for a weapon. And if you want to be able to see what your officers are shooting at, forget about it. The weapon completely obscures the field of view.
Still, for police officers, the Taser Axon Body 2 is a pretty good solution. It provides a quick and easy way to issue body cameras to officers, maintains the integrity of the data until retrieved by the department officials, and can be deployed without a ton of overhead.
Since this is a consumer blog first and foremost, we do need to cover civilian usage, too. And for those looking for a good option for a personal body cam, this probably isn’t it. The thing is massive and very obtrusive, not something you can covertly wear around in public without people thinking that you’re a cyborg. Better than a GoPro, but not by enough to matter.
It also might not be possible to actually download the content from your device to your computer given how closely Taser controls the distribution of that software.
On the competition side of the house, just forget it.
In short, what we have is a great solution for a cost effective and simple body camera for the law enforcement market that should be completely and totally ignored by the civilian market.
Specifications (Taser Axon Body 2):
Ratings (out of five stars):
Quality * * * *
The unit is well constructed and durable, but the fact that they shipped it with the wrong instruction manual leaves me a little underwhelmed.
Function * * *
For a police officer, this should be fine. The unit is easy to use and relatively simple to view the video afterwards (but not download). My main issue is the obstructed view when attached to a shirt. Oh, and the fact that it relies on the officer to turn it on. For the average civilian this thing is nearly useless.
Overall * * *
Functionally, it works. The issue is that with the intended location of the device on the officer’s body will probably limit field of view and ultimate usefulness. I honestly preferred the camera solution from Taser’s other Axon offerings, where a small remote camera feeds video to a larger battery and storage device.