Body Worn Video Steering Group
Many front-line police officers, security personnel, government staff, and more report tangible benefits when using body cameras. In the words of the Operation Hyperion report “some users simply switched on the devices at the start of an incident and off at the end, with little thought about using the camera pro-actively.”
This article provides 4 methods which can maximise the value of using body cameras.
Naturally, before body cameras even make it to live situations a great deal of thought is given to the policy and guidance on how the technology will be deployed. Below are 4 ways you can improve proactive use of body cameras:
– Clear notification
Most if not all police-based camera policies state that an officer must ensure anybody captured on camera must be aware they are being filmed. This means a loud, clear statement must be given – including to anyone who might happen to pass by the lens even if not involved in an interaction.
In other lines of work where this is not a requirement it can also serve as a deterrent to poor behaviour and de-escalate tough situations rapidly when individuals know they are being filmed.
– Providing Commentary
If you happen to be chasing a suspect on foot usually all that is seen is moderately-blurred footage and heavy panting, which in of itself does not provide good evidence. However, some officers have identified that it is possible to boost “the evidential value of the footage by providing a commentary (where relevant)”, by describing what is unfolding in this way can add greater context and understanding of the situation for others at a later date.
Where the opportunity is available, or is required by necessity, 2 separate cameras can be better than one. It is not always possible to know if you have the perfect shot, and objects can block the camera’s view. This is where another body camera user can provide that additional perspective and corroborate the facts.
Additionally, if in a car without CCTV installed you may consider detaching the camera from the body and mounting it on the dashboard to face inside the car if dealing with difficult individuals – and possibly capture any damage they may cause, or additional information that can assist an investigation.
– Open to Transparency
Generally speaking, most people do not like to be filmed by strangers, especially without one’s personal consent – including body camera users. Allowing citizens to film interactions (where appropriate) without fear of reprisal helps build trust within communities, and by providing that sense of “nothing to hide” to communities which previously distrusted police. A potential result will see communities begin to re-establish those lost ties moving forward.
For further information please see BWV: Essential Reading