Dash cams offer their owners a lot of benefits. They provide hard evidence in the event of any insurance claims. Their footage can even be used in a court of law.
However, one of the overlooked uses of a dash camera is during police stops. Not only can your camera record what’s going on outside of your vehicle, but it can also record inside too.
We’ll be looking at why and how you should record police stops and some of the best dash cams you can use to do so.
Why Would You Want To Record Police Interactions?
In recent years, there’s been concern over police behavior during traffic stops. In particular, how fairly or impartially they behave. It’s only a small minority of the police force that is responsible for these concerns. The vast majority of police officers are neither vindictive nor unfair. Coming across one who is, is rather unlucky. However, you only have to look as far as YouTube to see how a situation can escalate, even if you’ve done nothing wrong.
There are other reasons you might want to film during a police stop. Even when there is no malicious intent, the police can make mistakes. These mistakes could cause problems later on. The police themselves wear bodycams that record everything. However, there are reports and stories of the footage from these bodycams getting deleted. It’s better to have your own record of events in case you need it.
What To Do When You Get Pulled Over?
When the blue lights go on and you’ve found a safe place to stop, the first thing you’ll be asked to do is turn the engine off.
If your dash cam runs off of a USB port or the 12v outlet in your car, you’ll need to switch the engine off; but not all the way. You’ll need to leave the key turned halfway. This is known as ‘accessory mode’, and the key should click into place. This allows your car’s power systems and power outlets to stay switched on. If you were already recording, your camera should just keep on recording. If not then you’ll need to start the recording manually. There’s normally a specific button for this.
If your camera uses hard-wired power, then you’ll be able to switch your engine all the way off. However, depending on how your camera is configured, it will either switch off or go into parking mode. This normally happens five minutes after the engine is turned off (check the manual for your system specifically). During a police traffic stop, parking mode won’t be very useful. Since there won’t be an impact your camera won’t start recording. Most dashboard cameras have a button that will start the recording manually. Alternatively, you could do the same as mentioned above and just switch to accessory mode.
What Type Of Dash Cams Are Best For Traffic Stops?
There are a few features that will come in handy when recording your encounter with a police officer. Not all dash cams have these features so it’s important to do your research before buying.
Some cameras have a fixed mount, while others have dynamic mounts. A fixed mount can be useful because you’ll never need to worry about knocks or the view shifting. But during a traffic stop, you want that flexibility.
By having your camera on a swivel or ball joint, you have the ability to point the camera exactly where you’d like to. By turning it around to face yourself and your window, the dash cam will see and record everything it needs to.
Be wary of mounts that are flexible but structurally weak. Poor craftsmanship is no replacement for intentional, well-designed flexibility.
This is also an important feature to consider. The majority of your interaction with an officer the law will be verbal. Being able to record and later reference the conversation you had could be essential.
However, not all cameras place an emphasis on good audio. Generally, the audio quality on dash cams is pretty bad. Also, depending on where you’ve been pulled over (for example, the side of a freeway) the important sound could be completely drowned out on your footage. If you have time, it might be advisable to start recording audio on your phone as a contingency.
Some manufacturers have seen fit to use good quality microphones in their designs. It’s advisable to check out some test footage on YouTube to see if the camera your considering is one of them.
A lot of manufacturers offer a cabin-facing camera as an add-on purchase. Some even include them as part of their standard package. With one of these installed, you don’t have to worry about a mount that’s flexible, as every angle is already covered.
A good internal camera should have features like a wide-angle lens and excellent low-light capabilities. Some use infrared lights to capture video even at night.
Unfortunately, recording more than one feed will sometimes compromise the quality of your front and rear-facing cameras. A system can only capture so much video data, so it splits the bandwidth between cameras. Some models are only able to record two feeds at once, meaning you have to choose between front, rear and internal.
Can The Police Take My Dash Cam?
Although highly unlikely, yes, police officers can technically take your camera, if it is deemed to be evidence in a criminal investigation.
However, they will be unable to view the contents of the memory card without a warrant, which will need to be provided by a court of law.
Because of this, it’s unlikely that an officer will try to seize your camera or your SD card. They may ask for them, in which case you are free to decline. You can also do your best to hide your dash cam if you want to be hidden.
If your camera is seized, we recommend that you start recording on your phone instead, as there’s a chance that you will need the evidence later on.
If you’re unsure about the specific laws regarding your state or country, it is best to enquire with a local lawyer.
The Best Dash Cams For Recording Police Interactions
We’ve gathered some of the car cams that we think would do a great job during a police stop. We’ll compare some of their most useful features and weigh up which are the most important. They’ll need to have a balance of good audio, ability to film the interior cabin and have a way of operating when the car is off.
Dual Dash Cam, VAVA 2K Front and 1080P Cabin
- Front + Cabin Cam In Single Unit
- Magnetic Rotating Mount
- Can record when car is off
- Viewing angle is shallow
VAVA ticks a lot of boxes with their VA-VD009 2k cam. The front video quality is great and the cabin-view is pretty good as well. The internal camera also has infrared night vision. This all comes in one single piece so you don’t need to run any cables through your car.
The included mount is magnetic, meaning you can easily remove, twist, and rotate your dash cam. This is especially useful for traffic stops as the camera can be quickly maneuvered. If you pulled over, try to leave your keys in the accessory mode. Then turn the dash cam so that the cabin camera is facing you and the driver side window. The dash cam should still continue filming and you can capture all police interaction.
PRO TIP: Turn off any music or radios you may have playing. Some police officers can be temperamental and view it as a sign of disrespect, but more importantly, it will signal to them that the key is still in the ignition and they might have you remove the key.
While VAVA recommends only using up to a 128GB SD card, I’ve used a 256GB SD card with no issues. Stay away from Sandisk cards as they tend to error out dash cams.
The only issue with the VAVA 2k Dual is that the cabin-view camera doesn’t have a very wide-angle. It will provide far less coverage than a dedicated rear camera. The front is only 155 degrees while the rear lens is 126 degrees. There are plenty of dash cameras out there that have significantly higher viewing angles. For example the Garmin Tandem has two camera both with 180 degree lenses.
The audio clarity, however, is fantastic. It is by far the clearest and most audible on this list. You can check out a demonstration of the audio and the footage here.
TOGUARD Dual Dash Cam 4K Front and 1080P Inside Cabin
- Fantastic Quality Front Camera
- Wide Angle Internal Camera
- No Wi Fi or App
The TOGUARD Dual dash cam offers incredibly high-quality video with its 4k front camera. Like the VAVA Dual, it features both a forward and rear, interior cam in one unit. The cabin camera is 150°, offering comprehensive coverage of your entire car.
This camera is also able to rotate, but on its own axis, meaning you can turn each lens to face inside or outside your car. This could be useful if a situation, such as getting pulled over, requires a clearer view of the inside of your car rather than the outside.
The biggest downside to this camera is the lack of WiFi or an accompanying app. In order to review footage, you need to plug the micro SD card into a computer. This won’t be possible in the event of a traffic stop or an accident, meaning you won’t immediately be able to establish fault.
The other downside is that the online description is misleading. It hails itself that it can simultaneously film in 4K Front and 1080P in cabin. Unfortunately that is not the case as it will only record the front in 4K. To be able to record both, you’ll have to step down the resolution on the front camera.
In terms of recording, each 5 minute video (TOGUARD’s video file interval) is about 1.6GB. Thus, on a 256 GB card, you’ll probably get about 13 hours. This is using both front and rear.
The audio clarity on the TOGUARD is fairly average. It won’t pick up much from outside the vehicle if you’re on the road but if you’re somewhere quiet it should be fine. You can check out the audio and the footage here.
Vantrue N4 3 Channel Dash Cam
- Can Record 3 Concurrent Camera Feeds
- Adjustable Mounts
- No WiFi or App
The Vantrue N4 is the only 3-channel dash cam on this list, meaning full coverage video surveillance for your entire car. Other models with three cameras are limited by the number of video channels they can record, but this one is not.
However, the video resolution is affected when using all three channels. The advertised 4k is reduced to 1440p for the main camera and 1080p for the other two.
Vantrue has been releasing several dash cams in the recent years, and for good reason. All of their products are highly rated because they provide high quality products. I believe the dash cam that thrust it into the spotlight was the Vantrue N2 Pro, the perfect dash cam for Uber drivers. They’ve stuck with similar designs with their new releases but they try to pack in as many features as possible.
The lens angles are sufficiently wide and the design allows you to adjust the cameras freely to suit the situation. Of all the cameras on this list, this one will provide the most extensive coverage of your car. Not only is there more coverage, we really like the video quality. We can read license plates from about 30 feet away, which isn’t too shabby as my eyes can’t see much farther than that anyway. There is some slight bowing to the image, especially towards the sides. Buildings that are filmed from the side aren’t as straight as they should. But who’s using a dash cam to record buildings?
Having said this, the Vantrue N4 dash cam suffers from the same flaw as the TOGUARD, in that it doesn’t have an app or any cloud-based features. Depending on your reasons for getting a dash cam, this could be no big deal or a complete deal-breaker.
The audio recording is sufficient but it may be slightly difficult to understand in loud settings. You can watch and listen to an example here.
Anker Roav Dual Dash Cam Duo
- Two-Axis Rotation
- Video Quality Could Be Better
The Anker Roav Dual car cam is the most affordable camera listed here. It’s quite impressive considering the price. It has some advanced features such as a screen for real-time viewing, parking mode, and built-in GPS.
It also has an interesting design that means you can rotate the camera left to right on a horizontal axis and you can also rotate the inward camera vertically. This will allow you to easily maneuver the camera to cover every part of your car in any given situation.
Unfortunately, the video clarity isn’t up to the standard of other models on this list. Whilst it’s good value for the price, most people who have used higher-end dash cams will be unimpressed. However, this would make a great dash cam for a first-time user.
The audio clarity, however, is far better than the footage would suggest. You can check both out here.
When considering what dash cam to buy, it always comes down to the same thing. What is important to you?
Unfortunately, the perfect dash cam doesn’t exist (yet), so in the meantime, it’s a balancing act of what features are most important to you.
If you’re particularly worried about interactions with the police while driving, the four cameras listed here all make great choices. Think about what details are most important to you and pick the camera that suits your needs best. We hope this post has helped and don’t forget to check out some of the others on our site!