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Body-worn cameras have arrived;
Now comes the hard part

Achieving success with well-designed polices, plans, training and technology

Overview

No longer regarded as another invasive “Big Brother” technique, body-worn cameras are one of the biggest topics in public safety these days and are expected to become standard equipment. Views have evolved as police departments and the public alike, now see these devices as part of the solution to improving the often-complicated relationships between police and the citizens they protect and serve.

Now, more than ever, there is a need to strengthen police-community relations, and wearable cameras can play an important role. But effectively deploying and managing a body-worn camera system is a complex undertaking. A successful program requires well-designed governing polices, usage procedures, and training, supported by strong technology to administer, store and secure recorded information. Without a comprehensive plan to address these needs, the integrity of the system is at risk.

However, if done right, police agencies can deliver on these goals, enabling new levels of transparency, trust and accountability, while also supporting higher quality services and improved safety – benefitting both officers and citizens.

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Background

Body-worn cameras record events in real-time, providing an objective view of police interactions. This holds officers accountable for their actions, providing the transparency and legitimacy communities desire. In turn, officers have some protection from false accusations of misconduct, which can help ease tensions and resolve officer-related incidents more quickly. There is also evidence that cameras can have a positive effect on people’s behavior.

Body worn cameras also support the collection and documentation of evidence, recording what was viewed at a crime scene, witness accounts, interrogations, and arrests. Officers can search video captured before, during and after a crime, providing an opportunity to look for further evidence or clues. Data police record in their day-to-day work can be paired with video analytics to provide real-time intelligence for officers in the field, supporting improved situational awareness, decision-making, and safety.

In light of its undeniable benefits, wearable camera technology has even gained the support of groups that are often at odds on police issues. But as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has said, “confidence can only be created if good policies are put in place and backed up by good technology.”1

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“Confidence can only be created if good policies are put in place and backed up by good technology.” 1
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

1Stanley, Jay; American Civil Liberties Union; “Police Body-Mounted Cameras: With Right Policies in Place, a Win For All;” October 9, 2013; https://www.aclu.org/technology-and-liberty/police-body-mounted-cameras-right-policies-place-win-all

Analysis

As law enforcement agencies explore body-worn camera programs, important questions arise:

  • What policies and procedures are needed to direct the appropriate use of cameras and recordings, while protecting the privacy rights for both citizens and officers?

  • What are the protocols to guide when cameras are engaged, the processes for recording, downloading, viewing and controlling how footage will be used?

  • What systems are needed to manage, organize and store the enormous volume of data produced and how must that be maintained, and meet legal compliances?

  • What technology is needed to protect system integrity, safeguarding recordings from unauthorized or improper use, as well as external threats such as cyber attacks?

  • What are the training requirements to ensure adherence to guidelines, plus the know-how to interact with technology systems adopted?

  • What analytics systems are needed to ensure data is organized to be usable and provide actionable information and intelligence?

The effectiveness of a body-worn camera program depends on how these questions are addressed.

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Recommendations

Body-worn cameras create a vast amount of data that can be used for analysis. But departments will need to plan for solutions that effectively store, manage and protect it all, while addressing the challenges of how to analyze and make use of such massive amounts of data. The good news is there are solutions to help manage these myriad issues.

For example, there are ways to shrink the amount of footage maintained, decreasing costs and the complexity of video data storage. Information management systems are also growing more sophisticated, offering extensive capabilities to automated features and controls, which can help public safety organizations better manage, access and use information, while providing robust security, permissions, and safeguards.

Video analytics solutions are proving to be a game changer. Providing automatic monitoring and analysis, these systems are becoming more “intelligent”, and incorporating new functions from facial recognition to biometrics, transforming how data can be used for intelligence-led policing.

Just as technology is evolving every day, so are the opportunities for using body-worn cameras to support delivery of higher quality police services, improved crime-fighting performance and officer safety. To fully embrace the power and promise of body-worn cameras, however, police need well-designed policies, training procedures, and systems to administer and secure the technology and data.

Securing public trust, increasing transparency, and better protecting citizens and the officers who serve them, are just some of the many achievable rewards.


Author

Jody Weis

Jody Weis
Director, Public Safety – North America, Accenture
(former Supt., Chicago Police Department)

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