Security Body-Worn Cameras
There have been numerous discussions on the online social media sites regarding the use of body-worn cameras by police officers, and some of those discussions have started to include the potential use of security officer body-worn cameras.
The main reasons given by law enforcement with regards to why they use the body cameras have been along the lines of accountability and transparency. An often stated reason for implementing a body camera program has been that it increases transparency and citizen’s perceptions and views of law enforcement. However, there are minimal case studies or research documented to substantiate this claim.
Implementing body-worn cameras into security operations of private companies comes with some of the same challenges that law enforcement has experienced, but it will also result in other important factors that must be addressed up front so as to avoid potential criminal and civil actions down the road.
Security Body-Worn Camera Benefits
Several studies on the use of body-worn cameras in law enforcement specifically detail the potential for increased professionalism on the part of police officers when cameras are in use. In fact those studies refer to the behavioral changes in not only the police officers, but those that are being recorded as well.
Security cameras are in use everywhere and yet most of the time we have no idea we are being recorded so we are less likely to modify our behavior. However, body-worn cameras in many cases are very visible and many police departments require that the officer verbally notify anyone that is being recorded.
So the question is if security body-worn cameras are a required piece of equipment to be worn by private security officers, will it have any benefits such as modifying the behaviors of the security officers or those that they interact with? The short answer is yes, there will likely be the same reaction that police officers have experienced.
Some of the benefits that law enforcement agencies have experienced, and will likely be found within security departments, are that the videos can be utilized as a training tool and aiding in the internal investigations with regards to use of force and other complaints. There are many cases where police officers have been cleared of citizen complaints upon review of video evidence, and this will likely be the case with private security as well.
Organizations can and have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars defending their security program in the event of civil litigation, and video recordings of the events in question may in fact provide unbiased evidence that a claim is unfounded. On the other hand video of a security officer that is not following policy, or potentially exposing an employer to a claim of excessive force, can possibly be discovered at the earliest possible stages and therefore reduce future incidents.
Security Body-Worn Camera Concerns
The reality is that during the initial discussions of implementing security body-worn cameras there will likely be the same issues raised by law enforcement officers when these cameras were originally implemented at many police departments. Those concerns were trust, or the perceived lack of trust between management and officers. However, that concern was short lived in many police departments that implemented body-worn cameras, and in fact in many cases police officers have come to appreciate the cameras.
When new technology is put into use with security departments there is often push-back, either from the security staff or other company staff. For example, many times when security cameras are first installed staff may feel that management is watching them. As for security officers, there have been times that they believed that technology such as guard tour programs are put in place for management to watch them. The reality is both staff and security officers have come to appreciate the technology over time, just like police officers have come to appreciate body-worn cameras when it exonerates them during an internal investigation.
Body-Worn Cameras v. Privacy
Police departments have a unique concern with regards to privacy, and that concern is that they often will record information within a person’s residence, and that recording may become public record subject to disclosure to the media and public. With regards to private security, their video records for the most part are not subject to disclosure if it does not become part of a legal case.
Another concern for some police officers is the fact that their department may require all public contacts to be recorded. As a result of that requirement the officers have found that some people will not disclose sensitive information to the officer about criminal activity in their neighborhood, if in fact the conversation is recorded.
Private security officers will likely face different concerns as these cameras become more widely used. Some of the more concerning issues with security body-worn cameras may be in the area of educational and medical settings.
Colleges and universities that employ security officers who use body-worn cameras may find that there may be the issue of recording video within dorm rooms or other private settings. Hospital security officers using body-worn cameras will have issues with recording in treatment areas and mental health units, among other areas. All of these and many more concerns need to be considered during any planning, implementation, or operational discussions regarding body-worn cameras.
As you research this topic and how police departments have planned and implemented body-worn camera programs, you will find that the fiscal impact that such a program will bring to your department is more than just the purchase of the equipment. The actual costs of video storage and management will in many cases far outweigh the initial costs of the cameras, and those costs are ongoing.
Of course you can reduce your storage costs by defining the amount of video that will be stored and for how long. Basically, the less you store the lower your costs will be. However, the implications of maintaining minimal video can result in not having crucial evidence when needed. Keep in mind that civil cases may not be filed against your organization for a year or more in some states, so your organization should consult your legal and/or risk management departments to determine how long to maintain video records.
Security officers are not afforded the same protections under the law that police officers have. For example, in some states audio recordings cannot be made without the consent of all parties that are involved in the conversations.
There are some states that have this strict standard and require that even police officers make a verbal and sometimes written declaration that the conversation is being recorded. This is often referred to as the two-party or all-party consent clause.
So if your security department is considering the use of body-worn cameras with audio capabilities it is imperative that you consult your legal department to ascertain the legalities that such recording will have on your security program.
Considerations for Security Body-Worn Cameras
Type: Are they lightweight and durable?
Durable: Will the camera and housing stand up to the elements; use during physical confrontations; and will the cameras remain affixed to the officer’s uniform at all times or can they easily be disengaged during physical altercations.
Quality: Is the video quality appropriate? The actual camera and software used as well as the placement on the officer will have a direct outcome on the quality of the video images.
Ease of Use: Can the officer turn the camera on with very little effort when needed? Is it easy to download the video? Will the internal storage of the device allow for extended recordings?
Other equally important considerations that an organization must plan for is how will the video be handled and by whom. Having the officers download the video at the end of their shifts may be acceptable to some organizations with the proper protocols and oversight in place, yet some agencies may require that only management process video downloading and storage.
Some police agencies review all videos regardless of whether or not a complaint was made, but that requires personnel resources that security departments may not have. Therefore, if you are implementing a program to use body-worn cameras plan for every aspect of the handling, security, and storage of the video to insure that you are confident in the integrity of the process.
Security Body-Worn Camera Policy Development
When it comes down to it the policy that you have in place with regards to the use of the body-worn cameras can make or break your program. This is one of the most critical parts of implementing a security body-worn camera program because it establishes the use of the equipment, including any exceptions to such use, as well as the processing, handling, and storage of video archives.
Included below are a few published reports on police body-worn cameras and within these reports are sample policies that may assist you in the development of your policy. We encourage you to consult your legal department throughout the planning, implementation, and ongoing operations of a security body-worn camera program.
Body-Worn Camera Research
As mentioned earlier there are several extensive research documents that your security department can and should review prior to the implementation of a security body-worn camera program. Although these reports were written regarding the use of body-worn cameras in law enforcement, they offer a great deal of insight and studies on the value and concerns with such technology.
Three of those reports are listed below as a reference, and we recommend that you seek out all available research and case studies online prior to implementing a security body-worn camera program.
Implementing a Body-Worn Camera Program – Recommendations and Lessons Learned
Police Officer Body-Worn Cameras – Assessing the Evidence
The Rialto Police Department’s Body-Worn Video Camera Experiment: Operation “Candid Camera”