Body-worn cameras (BWCs) have permeated public safety and not something to be taken lightly. Departments, especially small ones, are scrambling to consider the positives and negatives of their use, the scale of their deployment and what impacts these tools will have on their communities.
There can be significant legal and financial ramifications, and community leaders want nothing more than to avoid both. A proposal with such inherent threats must contain overwhelming benefits, and we have 6 considerations that better your chances of acceptance and approval:
- Research…lots of research. You can’t come to the table with too much preparation. Your research must go far beyond just camera features and prices. Facts from multiple facets need your attention. Some examples would be talking to your local prosecutors, activist groups (such as the Human Rights Commission and the American Civil Liberties Union) and other departments that have already implemented a BWC program. All will have valuable insights and perspectives into things you and your community should consider or things to avoid.
- Relationships. Community one-on-one relationships can also be strained as soon as a camera is turned on. Willing witnesses or information channels might suddenly evaporate. A solid policy proposal that brings these issues to light and gives guidance to when cameras would be engaged will alleviate internal and external misgivings.
- Social media. More frequently these days, everyone is videoing everyone else during public safety encounters. Citizens are quick to post without much backlash, but departments must use more discretion. “Big brother” is a term you might be tired of hearing. Still, when you are under suspicion of wrongdoing, flipping the concept on its ear can do wonders. Some departments allow citizens to see video evidence of police encounters on social media to prevent the perception that they are hiding anything. That said, videos that capture the good you do can also build trust, respect and insight. Proposals for social media policies will help your discussions. That, of course, leads into…
- Privacy. More often than not, BWCs will catch people at their worst. Privacy concerns range from embarrassment to self-incrimination. Your community will want to ensure your policies will protect the privacy of individuals, including what situations are documented, who sees the videos and how secure the videos will be from the likes of hackers.
- Storage and security. The most expensive part of any BWC program, secure storage is a major hurdle. Even the smallest departments can produce hundreds of hours of video. If your locality or state requires evidence to be held for any amount of time, your storage space multiplies. If you are required to produce evidence in a tight time frame, you then layer on archiving and retrieval issues. When and where to transfer data from cameras must also be considered. Some cameras, like the Vievu Squared Worn Body Camera, can even stream video. Add concerns toward your cyber security, and you have quite the challenge to work through with your community leaders. No matter you choice, you must understand the technical implications of each (at least at a high level).
- Deployment plan. A good plan that pulls everything together requires optimism and vision. Some departments have used a phased deployment to allow time to troubleshoot issues for their particular situation. For others, they want to leverage a grant to its maximum. Whatever you propose, a well thought-out strategy will bring your strongest opponents closer to approving your plan.
Body cameras are the future staple of public safety. Don’t be caught trying to catch up. The Internet is filled with valuable, more in-depth information. Here are just a few organizations that can help you navigate this issue further:
- COPS (U.S. Department of Justice: Community Oriented Policing Services)
- PERF (Police Executive Research Forum)
- Major Cities Chiefs Association
- Major County Sheriffs’ Association
If you would like to see some of the body-worn camera options, here are some of the best choices in the industry.