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NYPD pulls thousands of body cams after one explodes

Andrew Burton/Getty Images

For New York cops, fighting crime must be tough enough without having to worry about your body camera exploding.

But that’s exactly what happened to one of the city’s police officers during a shift in Staten Island on Sunday, October 21.

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A statement from the NYPD described how the officer noticed something was up when smoke was spotted coming from the camera. Right after removing it, “the device exploded,” the NYPD said.

In the police department’s own words: “Last night, an officer retrieved a body-cam for deployment on a midnight tour and noticed there was smoke exiting from the bottom portal and immediately removed it. After it was safely removed, the device exploded.”

Fortunately, no one was injured in the incident, which is thought to have been caused by the camera’s battery.

All officers with the assigned LE-5 camera — built by body camera specialist Vievu — have been told to stop using it immediately and return the device to their commands.

Some NYPD officers use the LE-4 body camera, and these are deemed to be safe and are therefore not part of the recall. According to the Daily Beast, the incident has led to about 3,000 of the NYPD’s 15,000 body cameras being taken out of service until further notice.

Axon, the Scottsdale, Arizona-based parent company of Vievu, said in a message to the media that “safety is of the utmost importance,” adding that it intends to do “whatever is necessary to quickly and safely resolve this situation.

It’s certainly not the first time a lithium-ion battery inside a portable device has gone up in flames. The battery is at risk of such destructive  behavior if it sustains damage or has a design fault, as famously happened with Samsung’s doomed Galaxy Note 7 smartphone.

If you’re wondering about the potential ferocity of such an explosion, check out this video showing an electronic cigarette going up in flames while it was inside a man’s pants pocket. If the the cop’s camera explosion was anything like that, then the officer clearly had a lucky escape on Sunday.

The NYPD started equipping its officers with body cameras in April 2017. It has previously stated that it wants all of its officers to be equipped with the devices by the end of 2018, but it’s not yet clear if the incident will have any effect on the planned rollout.

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our officers, and equipping the NYPD with the best equipment is a paramount priority,” the police department said in its statement on Sunday.

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