The Benefits of Bodycams for Police and Law Enforcement
Many country or region specific reasons motivated police departments to implement a bodycam solution to address challenges. A few common challenges that they face are:
- Police-citizen interactions
- Officer safety
- Evidence collection
- Accountability and transparency
- Evaluation and training
- Direct, efficient support for officers in the field
The question remains how bodycams benefit police and other law enforcers, and tackle these specific challenges within the confines of the (inter)national legal frameworks officers operate in.
What benefits of bodycams for police and law enforcement address these specific challenges?
Bodycams positively contribute to police-citizen interaction in several ways. Firstly, it has long been known that cameras, or the chance of being recorded, affects people’s behaviour. The bodycam itself is a visibly present, neutral and objective observer of any interaction between officers and citizens. This triggers a need in people on both sides of the bodycams to remain civil, constructive and approachable, or in other terms; prosocial. Furthermore, all parties also know that if an escalation takes place, evidence will be recorded which will negatively impact them. As a result, escalations, verbal abuse and physical aggression are much reduced when bodycams are present. In Amsterdam, for example, wearing bodycams resulted in a 50% reduction in physical aggression and serious threats, in just one year! Similar results can be found other studied countries such as Belgium, Malta, the U.K. and many more.
Benefits of bodycams for police-citizen interactions:
- Bodycams are known to deter aggression and escalation
- People behave better when there is a chance to be recorded
- Answer to the impartial and subjective filming by bystanders
- A non-lethal policing tool: many escalations do not require force to return to civilized interactions
Officers are and feel safer when carrying bodycams. Results from 2019 polls among police officers show that 85% say they feel safer and 73% feel supported in their work. Belgian police officers indicate the same:
“I spend a lot of my working hours on traffic control where I often have discussions concerning the actions of drivers and fines. I have experienced before how there was only escalating verbal aggression in a situation, and from the moment I said that they were now being filmed, instantly their attitude changed and we were able to de-escalate and continue a conversation on a normal level. I believe that without the bodycam, that person would have continued escalating, resulting in something worse.” - Anonymous police officer
Especially when police officers are on patrol, bodycams increase officer safety by preventing and de-escalating incidents, leading to fewer altercations and more pleasant working conditions.
With the addition of new livestreaming bodycam technology, police officers can further be supported and protected in the field through real-time live footage with GPS location, resulting in quick, direct support and efficient communication when something occurs in the line duty.
Benefits of bodycams for police officer safety
- The mere presence of bodycams increases safety and feelings of safety
- Bodycams are a non-violent policing tool that allows escalating interactions to settle without the use of force
- Livestreaming offers the ability to directly and quickly support officers in the field
Bodycams are commonly known to gather evidence in the form of video, audio and metadata such as GPS, time/date and other metrics. When bodycams are secure through encrypted storage and transmission, a video management system that has access controls and logging, and the bodycam footage is otherwise handled in accordance with (inter)national laws, it provides indisputable evidence that is accepted in courts worldwide.
Many law firms see bodycam recordings as the new gold standard for situational evidence. Officers themselves say that bodycam evidence supports their policing work and reports, allows them to see details which in hectic moments could be overlooked, and gives them confidence as their correct handling is recorded in case of any claims from the public. A recent study (2022) from the U.S.A. even found that bodycam evidence increase conviction rates of cases of assault against officers by up to 93%!
Benefits of bodycams for evidence collection
- Secure bodycams record indisputable evidence for prosecution
- Secure, encrypted and restricted bodycam footage is compliant with any privacy or data protection laws
- Bodycams are neutral eyewitnesses that everyone trusts
- Witness statements themselves are better when recorded with bodycams, as they record everything from emotions, to physical damage, to surrounding details
- Bodycam evidence is especially useful in cases of assault against officers
- Bodycams record evidence of good policing work for communication and outreach purposes
- Objective, complete bodycam footage is a needed answer to the partial, subjective filming by bystanders
Accountability and transparency
This topic is closely related to evidence collection, as bodycams record all that is said and done on both sides of the camera. This allows police organisations to be fully transparent about their operations, actions and results when bodycams are activated. This naturally is a net benefit for police departments as well as the societies they serve.
Training and evaluation of police operations
Training is an essential part of any profession with data at its basis. What situations occurred, which actions were taken, what was the reaction of all parties to these actions and how was the situation eventually resolved?
Bodycam footage, with audio, video and even metadata such as GPS can greatly benefit the analysis of situations or escalations, and provide data for future best practices. By analysing bodycam footage of (inter)actions, employers and staff can judge what went well and what requires attention. Furthermore, as bodycams capture a lot more than can often be remembered, more information is available.
This was also the conclusion of research into bodycam use by the Dutch National Police; it was found that one of the biggest added benefits of bodycams was the possibility to watch, learn and improve with bodycam footage. Instead of working with actors, police officers could learn from real on-the-job experiences.
Benefits of bodycams for police training and evaluation
- More, and better available data for training and evaluation
- Employees, their managers and future officers can learn from many real on-the-job experiences
- Training programs and the development of best practices can be more streamlined and focused with bodycam footage
- A potentially endless database of training materials that is stored in a secure and GDPR
- compliant manner
Operational support through livestreaming
4G, livestreaming bodycams have resulted in added benefits of bodycams for police and other law enforcement agencies. A great example of how livestreaming is supporting police operations is the West Midlands Police, U.K., which has activated livestreaming bodycams this year. The police department found that it greatly increases the speed of decision making, leading to a reduction in risks associated with dangerous operations. During busy sporting events, crises and active crime scenes, livestreaming bodycams can save lives through increased situational awareness, as well as direct and adequate support whenever necessary. Over 90% of those polled supported police using livestreaming bodycams.
Benefits of 4G, livestreaming bodycams for police and law enforcement operations
- with a 100 things to focus on, police officers feel livestreaming bodycams support situational awareness
- livestreaming bodycams increase the safety of, and checks for police officers when the control room hasn’t been contacted for a while
- direct, quick and efficient support in the field through livestreaming bodycams enables safer,
- more confident officers
- improved decision-making through senior and expert advice when necessary
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