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Body worn cameras: Are they here to stay?

Body worn cameras

In this article from Norbain, sponsored by Axis Communications, the company assesses whether body worn cameras are a passing accessory or whether they are here long-term.

According to Omdia, body worn video in non-law enforcement applications is set to be one of the top trends in physical security in 2021.

How has this come about? We know from evidence to date that law enforcement bodies have had mixed results when using this technology. Some studies have shown that the use of body worn cameras by Police Forces has encouraged improvements in behaviour when the camera is on, both by members of the public and police officers alike. And in the UK, this technology has been heavily invested in by the majority of police forces, with the Metropolitan Police going so far as to issue a body worn camera to all frontline officers. But the technology also runs the risk of provoking negative reactions when used for law enforcement.

Keep in mind that when police officers are called, they are often arriving into an environment of heightened tension and emotion. So, it is not unheard of for those in the act of perpetrating offences, along with victims or witnesses, to react adversely when they realise that they are being filmed.

But, whilst there may be challenges in how body worn cameras are deployed for law enforcement, we know from the statistics that the use of this technology across multiple other sectors is gaining huge traction globally; according to Market Research Future, the market was worth just under $444m in 2020 and is predicted to reach $1,507m in 2025.

New manufacturers such as Axis and Hikvision entering the market is a clear indication of the growing mainstream appeal of this technology.

So, for the security specialist – installer or consultant – it pays to think about offering this technology as an extension to existing expertise in video surveillance and/or access control.

Multiple applications for body worn cameras

The body worn camera captures both audio and video digitally and this is why the technology complements fixed video surveillance systems so well. CCTV cameras are typically further away from where an incident occurs and of course, capture of audio is very challenging. The body worn camera on the other hand is often just two-three metres away from an event and is therefore more obvious in its deployment, clearly capturing both audio and video.

We know that public-facing professions have come under increasing threat of both physical and verbal abuse in recent years. Sectors such as security, retail and healthcare are deploying body worn cameras to enhance the safety of their employees.

As well as moderating behaviour for the better when members of the public realise they are being or could be recorded, cameras can also be used to document evidentially superior footage of incidents to secure convictions or uphold staff accounts.

The cameras can be connected via a docking station directly into a Video Management Solution to upload and sync data and the video can be stored in the cloud or onsite as best suits the customer. With correctly installed back-office software, it is possible for end user customers to adopt data management policies specific to their business with features available such as customised fields, automatic footage deletion, data reports and full audit trails of recorded footage. This allows management to keep control of how body worn cameras are used within their organisation.

Footage captured from body worn cameras offers another interesting application; to enhance training and develop best practice by capturing real life footage and bringing the theoretical to life. As well as acting as a deterrent, it is easy to see how body worn cameras can improve accountability and transparency of the wearers’ behaviour.

These benefits open up the scope of opportunity for security specialists, who can see relevance across multiple applications. Let’s take a look at these individually:

Retail industry

Attacks on retail workers have been on the rise for several years now, with the pandemic only exacerbating the problem.

Back in October 2019, ASDA rolled out a successful trial utilising body worn cameras to boost in-store security. ASDA say that they have been able to enhance colleague security, diffuse aggressive and volatile situations and, interestingly, reduce investigation time into incidents – a tangible cost saving benefit. They have also been able to secure convictions for theft and violence since deployment.

The Co-op is also in the middle of investing £70m in employee safety, including body worn cameras. They are deploying a solution that is remotely monitored in real time by a third party and uses cloud-hosted video management software.

So, there is an increasing appetite in this sector and uptake is gaining traction. The technology lends itself well both to moderating the behaviour of the general public and the wearer, as well as helping staff feel safer, better protected and more valued as a result.

Healthcare sector

Body worn cameras mean no more getting away with threatening staff ‘behind the curtain’ in A&E. Properly recorded footage supports paramedics as they carry out their duties out on the frontline – real life scenario-based footage is a valuable tool in training medical staff.

Unfortunately, just as the retail sector has seen a rise in violent and abusive incidents towards shop workers, so have our frontline healthcare emergency workers. The use of body worn cameras both within hospitals and out on emergency call outs can be used to protect against assault and abuse plus produce compelling evidence in court when necessary.

Initial trials at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital within their A&E department reported staff feeling more in control whilst using a body worn camera along with a reduction in violence and aggression from the public.

Transportation

In the same way as paramedics and those in A&E can suffer abuse, this is sadly a common occurrence now for transport workers too, in particular bus or coach drivers and ticket inspectors. Body worn camera devices can reduce the incidence of abuse and record vital evidence.

Education sector

A new trend, it’s still early days for the deployment of body worn camera technology within our educational institutions, but it is easy to see how these could be used to protect both staff and pupils and maintain best practice. This type of solution is already being trialled for use as a deterrent to resolve issues such as classroom disruption.

Hospitality

With our hospitality and entertainment industries on the cusp of opening back up fully after the pandemic, there is scope for widescale deployment of body worn cameras for reception staff, stewards and security personnel, particularly if venues are expected to require proof of vaccinations and encourage the public to adhere to social distancing regulations.

Physical security staff

Body worn cameras have been adopted by security guards for some time now. They were the most obvious area of crossover into the commercial sector once the technology proved to have potential within the law enforcement sector.

Prison service

The use of body worn cameras within prisons or detention facilities can assist on many levels: deterring aggression; eliminating the need to activate panic buttons or radio during an incident; recording details as they unfold, perhaps in fixed IP camera blind spots; providing footage for review; ensuring prison officers feel valued, safe and protected.

Benefits and considerations

The key consideration for adoption of a body worn camera system within the commercial world is that it must be simple to deploy, simple to manage and simple to use. Minimal training should be necessary, and it is imperative that the back-office management system is secure so as to safeguard data integrity along with the ability to deliver authentic evidence where required.

Security experts and end users must be fully conversant in their data collection and privacy responsibilities and these will differ depending on both how and where the cameras are deployed – internal use for training or best practice development has a different set of rules to if you intend to submit body worn camera video evidence in court, and a solution that is resistant to tampering, manipulation or data theft would be imperative in the latter instance.

The Norbain advantage

We can advise you and your end customer on current body worn camera solutions available in the marketplace and which solution would be best suited to your needs.

We also understand that every business is unique and some solutions can’t be delivered in a box. That’s why we have Solutions Specialists to provide you with ongoing support, help define project roadmaps and work with you to optimise technology investments.

Get in touch with us to discuss your requirements by visiting: www.norbain.com