Body worn cameras have been widely heralded by the security sector for generating a range of benefits, not least the fact they provide evidence to support interactions preventing – or at least reducing the chances – of frivolous claims of malpractice. They have also been welcomed for giving the security personnel who use them confidence in tricky situations. Yet, others have viewed them as an intrusion on people’s privacy, some have said that customers in some settings have complained about being watched. In some cases the quality of the footage has been questioned and there is a concern they can be abused. So what is the potential for body worn cameras? This webinar will discuss:

  • The value of body worn cameras in different contexts
  • The negative aspects pf these cameras and how these can be managed
  • The potential and future of body worn cameras in a security context

Chair: Professor Martin Gill

Dave Cox – Head of Security, London Bridge City
Chris Middleton – Chartered (CSyP), Dip ML, MSyl – Security and Client Services Director, ABM UK
Tom Ellis – Principal lecturer, Institute of Criminal Justice Studies, University of Portsmouth

Key points
Dave Cox declares from the outset that he is extremely positive about body worn cameras and then discusses the reasons why and specifically the benefits compared to CCTV. These include the fact that they provide audio as well as visual images; they lead to changed and improved behaviour of security staff and those they are monitoring; they are portable and can record at the heart of an incident, as such they provide a form of governance; they can improve the response and they provide an evidential record, for example they help in managing complaints by providing a true record of what occurred rather than people’s subjective unsupported account; and they can be key in dealing with those involved with hostile reconnaissance. Dave rejects the claim that the security sector has underplayed legitimate privacy concerns in its enthusiasm for an adaptable security measure and points to the emphasis placed on proportionality. Being good is dependent on having the right data protection protocols in place.

Chris Middleton has a long association with body worn cameras, indeed he was part of trials that took place in 2012. Even in those early days there were signs that this measure was going to play a key role in reducing crime. Since then its use has developed, encryption has added security, post incident analysis has offered new possibilities. Chris argues that they do provide a ROI and gives the example of the retail sector where they are used to quantify a contribution to shrinkage. Moreover, he notes that they facilitate convictions and help save lives. Yet many clients are resistant to their use and often they only become attractive once an incident has occurred. And there is a need to be cautious about buying cheap. 

Tom Ellis can see good and bad in body worn cameras. He has assessed their use in different environments which have generated different experiences. For example, in policing they are heralded for modifying officer behaviour, although this is relatively unproblematic anyway in the UK it has a greater value in places such as the USA and China. In the mental health sector, the cameras have cut down the use of tranquilisers and added a range of benefits including a reduction in costs. In prisons officers have argued that they behave better when body worn cameras are being used. One of their advantages compared to CCTV is that they are only used when needed, although where strict data protection protocols are in place and they are trusted and followed privacy concerns can be minimised. You will hear Tom discuss their impact on anti-social behaviour, domestic violence and the importance of buffering. He warns against buying cheap.

At the end of the webinar the panel were asked for their thoughts on the immediate future of body warn cameras. Chris feels they will grow in prominence, Dave points to the technical improvements offering greater possibilities, Tom notes the challenge of integrating with other technologies.

Professor Martin Gill
27th October 2022