Video Recording Confrontations

Shoot someone to defend yourself against rape or robbery and you may be charged with attempted murder or worse. More often than not, police and prosecutors label the person who emerged unscathed (you) as “the perpetrator” and they label the bleeding guy (the robber or rapist) as “the victim”.

What about eyewitnesses? Eyewitnesses can sometimes save you from prison if they are willing to testify that they saw the attempted rape and your self-defense. On the other hand, if his fellow gang-members lie that the guy you shot was minding his own business, your goose is cooked. In fact, depending on your own “racial” classification, and that of the neighborhood where the shooting happened, liars may gather from miles around to swear that you shot the poor guy in cold blood while he was turning his life around.

A video of the event can resolve the justice system in your favor.

Five Needed Features

Virtually all cellphones today come with the ability to record video. Nevertheless, in order to use this ability realistically during a confrontation, your cellphone’s video recording must have five features. It must be invisible, unstoppable, uploadable, have automatic and continuous upload, and be accessible to your attorney.

Invisible — It is usually unwise to let confronters know that you are recording them. They may react by taking your cellphone away, removing its sdcard, or simply smashing it. Best to use a program that runs in the background, recording through the camera while the phone is in your pocket and seeming to be asleep with a blank screen.

Unstoppable — The invisible recording process should require a secret code or action to be stopped, short of someone physically removing the cellphone’s battery. Again, a confronter may examine your phone and try turn it off. The attempt should appear to be successful, but in fact be as difficult as possible.

Uploadable — It is not a good idea to store an incident’s video files within the cellphone. They should be uploaded to an internet cloud account. Again, depending on the nature of the incident, you may lose the device, or its files may be deleted against your will. But once you have uploaded an incident’s video files to the cloud, they become permanently safe.

Automatic and continuous upload — You may not have the opportunity to manually upload the video files after an incident. You may be too busy, unwilling to draw attention to the cellphone, or no longer have access to it. Instead, video files should be uploaded to the cloud continuously as they are recorded. Even if your cellphone were destroyed while transmitting, you should lose no more than 30 seconds of video.

Accessible to your attorney — The video files should be easily downloadable and viewable by your attorney via a simple URL.

My Solution

What follows is my personal solution to the above goals.

I use an Android cellphone that fits vertically in my shirt pocket with only the camera lens peeking out. On some shirts I have had to put a couple of stitches into the pocket so that the phone fits just right.

This is a view of me, taken with regular camera by my wife as she approaches.

Any time that a confrontation is possible, such as when walking to and from my car in a parking lot, or when approaching a group, I start the recording program. I stop recording once confrontation is no longer likely. Recording (and continuous upload) depletes the battery by about 20 percent every half-hour. (More or less, depending on how much activity is recorded, since video file size varies with on-screen movement.) Hence, a one-hour-long confrontation will consume about 40 percent of battery charge. A phone charger in the car is useful. I anticipate that within a few years phones and cell towers will be become efficient enough that you can record constantly.

I do not use the video program that came with the phone since it lacks most of the above features (invisible, unstoppable, etc.). Also, I dislike most of the all-in-one hidden camera solutions available on the market because they: (1) cost money, (2) store uploaded files in a proprietary site, and (3) are not easily accessible by my lawyer. My solution costs pennies, is private, completely under my control, and meets all five of the above features.

The Details

This is my hidden camera’s view of my wife as she approaches.

Notice that the video is recorded at a lower resolution than is customary (240 x 360). The low resolution enables virtually instant upload to the internet while still providing enough detail for forensics.

The Android program with which I record video is “Mobile Hidden Camera” (MHC) by MHC Software. It is essentially invisible and unstoppable. It records whatever the camera lens sees into a cellphone folder (directory) named “sdcard/mhc/videos”. MHC can be programmed to write a new date- and time-stamped file every so many megabytes. I have set it to chop the video as it records into 2-meg files. This comes to about 1-2 minutes of video in each file, depending on the vigor of on-screen activity.

My internet cloud account is with Dropbox┬ábecause I find Dropbox to be the most reliable and easy to use cloud service. Dropbox folders (directories) are visible and and their contents alterable from every computer on which you have set up your Dropbox account, whether Mac, Windows, Linux, or Android. Files in the Dropbox cloud are visible and downloadable by anyone to whom you have given the file’s public URL.

Finally, I use an Android program named “Dropsync“, that links the MHC folder on the phone (into which video files are directly recorded) to the Dropbox folder in the cloud (where they are stored). As MHC records each 2-meg file (1-2 minutes of video), Dropsync instantly uploads the file to the Dropbox cloud. Even if my cellphone were destroyed in mid-upload, only 30-60 seconds of video would be lost.

As you can imagine, the above process records lots of useless video files, so every so often I delete them all from the Dropbox cloud, using any handy computer, tablet, or cellphone.

Next Time: Why Did You Use Illegal Cop-Killer Dum-Dum Bullets?


Frank W. Sweet is an NRA-certified firearms instructor who teaches the safe and effective use of handguns for self-defense. He was awarded an M.A. in Civil War Studies in military history from American Military University in 2001. He is the author of Legal History of the Color Line (ISBN 9780939479238), Six Gems of Forgotten Civil War History (ISBN 9780939479023), and of numerous published historical essays. To receive a schedule of his firearms training courses, email to The information above should not be construed as legal advice.

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