Body worn cameras remain a force for good
December 4, 2023 by Chris Allcard
The use of body worn cameras has recently hit the headlines – but for all the wrong reasons. Chris Allcard, lone worker services director at Reliance Protect, explains why their potential for good should not be undermined by bad practice and how the latest technology can help reduce misuse.
Over the last 15 years body worn cameras have become a success story. Once the sole preserve of the police and emergency services, they are increasingly utilised across an ever-expanding range of sectors including healthcare, retail, hospitality and event management, with litter enforcement officers, ticket inspectors, security officers, shop staff, traffic wardens, estate agents, delivery drivers, postal workers and even driving test examiners benefitting from their use.
The ability to use body worn cameras as a force for good, however, depends upon the body worn cameras being used, and the resultant footage managed, correctly. Unfortunately, if a camera is switched off, footage ‘lost’ or edited to conceal the inappropriate, or even unlawful, actions of the wearer, or copies of footage is distributed through unauthorised channels, then they become part of the problem rather than a solution.
Reliance Protect has been committed to ensuring the safety of workers since 2006 and providing cloud-based body worn camera solutions since 2018. We are at the forefront in providing body worn cameras that bolster incident prevention, incident de-escalation, expedite incident response decision making through live streaming, facilitate robust and secure evidence collection and offer organisations complete control over the editing and management of their video recordings.
They are proven to have a deterrent effect, as people tend to be far less aggressive if they know there is a risk they could be recorded. They can also be used effectively to deescalate situations when users state they will start to record the situation. Body worn cameras also provide extremely powerful evidence of situations, as the high-definition images and audio are typically of far higher quality than CCTV cameras that may be many metres away from the situation. The live stream capabilities enable our Alarm receiving Centre (ARC) operators to have both eyes and ears on the ground to quickly assess situations and escalate the most appropriate responses.
Users Be aware
Body worn cameras also provide reassurance for the general public as they are an effective tool for ensuring the wearer’s accountability. They act as a control on user behaviour and deter wearers from stepping outside agreed boundaries of acceptable action. Moreover, footage can be used to highlight training requirements and best practice.
There are body worn cameras available that have their own screens and allow the wearer or colleagues to view on the camera the footage recorded. There are cameras that also allow footage to be downloaded to uncontrolled and unsecure PCs and laptops, etc. Such cameras allow the risks associated with unauthorised access, sharing, editing and deletion of footage recorded to go uncontrolled and open to abuse.
New and improved
Body worn camera technology has developed significantly over the last few years, with smaller form factors and features such as high-definition video and audio, live streaming, 4G and Bluetooth connectivity, and assisted Global Positioning System (GPS) and Wi-Fi locating technologies now available. Reliance Protect only offers the latest body worn cameras that do not have their own screens or playback facilities – this is to ensure users cannot view, edit, or delete the recordings they have made.
Similarly, recordings on the cameras are encrypted prior to uploading, and can only be uploaded automatically to the Reliance Protect VideoManager secure online portal with cloud storage. Access and permission levels to the VideoManager portal are fully controlled by the customer including sharing, editing and deletion access rights. Furthermore, there is a complete audit trail of all actions taken on VideoManager providing complete transparency on who did what and when with any video footage.
The latest body worn cameras also have pre- and post-record functionality. With this, the camera continuously records, but every two minutes overrides itself. This means that after the user presses the record button there will be two minutes of previous footage and, once turned off, the camera will continue to record for two minutes afterwards. This feature was originally designed because, in the heat of the moment, users often press record after an event is underway, which means losing context. However, it does also mean that those turning the camera on or off to avoid their actions being filmed are less able to do so.
Turning a camera on can also automatically activate other wearers’ devices close by and begin recording and streaming live footage to a central control room, often referred to as peer assisted recording or ‘swarm’ mode. Multiple cameras syncing together can capture a unified perspective of an incident from various angles, providing a comprehensive and more accurate account of events, as well as a full audit trail that offers an extra layer of visibility and accountability. It also reduces the risks associated with tampering with any individual camera footage, enhancing transparency and aiding investigations.
For the greater good
Despite the occasional negative headlines, body worn cameras are becoming widely adopted and are highly effective, protecting employees and the wider public and providing powerful evidence. The Reliance Protect range of latest generation body worn cameras and accompanying secure VideoManager portal enables organisations to minimise the risks associated with misuse and contribute to increased safety, accountability and overall operational efficiency.