A body worn camera (BWC) is a small video camera generally worn on the body and can capture audio, video and photos.
Body cameras have been trialled and deployed to Australian police throughout many states around Australia via a tender procedure during the past few years. Additionally, local councils (government agencies) have become aware of the positive results and have shown interest in acquiring a number of units to capture incidents and interactions between members of the community.
This level of protection is a safety measure for both the Council Officer and the public, especially in remote or isolated locations where there is a shortfall of eye-witnesses. There have been too many reports of officers being attacked, abused or threatened and it needs to stop.
Body cameras are suited for a range of fields within the council such as parking officers, animal management, local laws officers and park rangers.
Perth Now revealed that in 2017 there were "dozens of assaults against Perth council workers, including some in which rangers were spat on, punched and thrown to the ground." They also continue to explain that verbal abuse of Council Officers was also a widespread problem.
RESULTS OF BODY CAMERAS
There have been many successful trials and results from a range of organisations and institutions around Australia with reports of the following:
- Moderated behaviour of people present at incidents
- Improved officer conduct and professionalism
- Reduction in complaints against officers
- Improved collection of evidence
(Mareeba Shire Council)
In regards to the police, the following were suggested by Michael D. White at Data Driven Crime Solution:
- Increased transparency and citizen views of police legitimacy
- Improved behaviour among both police officers and citizens
- Evidentiary benefits that expedite resolution of citizen complaints or lawsuits and that
- improve evidence for arrest and prosecution; and
- opportunities for police training.
Depending on the council, different rules and regulations may be in place, however, many follow similar general rules. Law enforcement (police) are bound by a different legislation with again, many states differing.
If you are interested in learning more about privacy and how your local council collects and uses the information collected, it is best to refer to their website or contact them directly.
In general, body cameras will be mainly be used in public spaces where recording footage is legal by anyone and are generally not used in private places in order to not intrude on the rights of residents. However, with the permission of the property owner, they may be used in private property.
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
The general public can request access to information/footage containing your personal situation or event under the Freedom of Information Act 1982. Generally, you could contact the council or other commonwealth agencies for a request.
Please take note of the policy for different councils as they don't keep footage forever. This is partly a cost saving initiative and also helps towards privacy as footage will be wiped after a certain date.
COUNCIL IMPLEMENTATIONS & CONSIDERATIONS
Before investing in body cameras, it is best to conduct research (as you're probably doing now) and put together relevant information. Here are a few common questions to discuss:
How will the body camera be mounted to the officer? If your park rangers wear a simple t-shirt or button up, it may pose problems to line of sight if you are mounting the BWC to the torso. This is due to the fact that many units weigh upwards of 100g and can result in a droop effect where the lens is facing the ground or is out of angle.
- Organise vests or tougher clothing to support the weight
- Purchase Adjustable Chest Harnesses or Adjustable Shoulder Harnesses
- Attach the BWC to the belt of the officer and run an External Mini Cam through the clothing and onto the shoulder or between the shirt buttons.
How will you charge the devices? This decision will change based on the number of body cameras that your organisation or council will acquire and how they are deployed. Overwatch Security includes an individual docking station per unit as part of our free accessories, however, if you are deploying 20+ units, it may be best to look into 8-Port Docking Stations.
The reason behind this is for an easier and more streamlined charging method, rather than plugging 20 different wall chargers into separate outlets which can create a messy situation.
Some councils however, have more than one main central location. In this situation, it will work better having individual chargers as this method enables them to keep a number of body cameras at various locations that can be utilised by full-time staff and weekend contractors.
A testimonial from one of our clients admits that: "individual units/chargers can be easily switched from one area to another in small or large numbers depending on staffing levels which may not always be practical using a larger multi-dock when it may only be a couple of units being switched around our other offices. The units are sometimes used by our City Safety, Environmental Health staff as well as our Parking Officers which is why they are scattered around a bit."
Ultimately, you will have to assess your own benefits and decide what the best method is for you. If you would like assistance, please contact us.
3. RETRIEVING FOOTAGE
There are many ways to retrieve data from body cameras and you will notice that different companies offer different or similar solutions. At Overwatch Security, we try and make the process as easy as possible. Simply connect the body camera to a PC via USB cable and transfer out the data that you require. This process is similar to using a regular USB by opening the contain folder to retrieve files.
Some companies offer cloud storage, however this will incur additional costs that you will have to acknowledge. Cloud storage basically means that the data which you record is uploaded to the server of your supplier. You then pay a subscription fee to access your files and view your library. Most companies that offer this, also block the abilities to access data yourself via the USB to PC method.
Another option to consider is EMS (Evidence Management Software) which allows you to manage files such as video, audio, photos and more through an intuitive interface. You will usually be required to pay extra for this.
Some customers prefer EMS while others don't as it can become complicated, costly and sometimes even time consuming. We offer in-built EMS with our Professional 8-Port Docking Stations with automatic uploads.
Security, passwords and encryption are important to consider, especially for government bodies. Some devices have password protection turned off by default, however this can be easily changed through the settings. A few common uses of password protection are as follows:
- If you drop your body camera or if it is stolen, a random civilian cannot access sensitive footage.
- Leaders are able to distinguish which devices belongs to which officer.
Setting a master/admin password as well as a user password can also prevent misuse from your own officers and can also help strengthen community consensus if it is lacking. This means that the team leader or admin sets an admin password which locks data/file tampering. The user can still use the device as normal by entering their own user password, but they cannot download/delete or remove data themselves.
5. BATTERY LIFE
How long do you need the battery to last for? How long is a general shift? What resolution do you need to record at? How much memory do you need? These questions dictate how long you can use the device for before it is full.
If you acquire a body camera which has 64GB of in-built memory and you set the resolution to 720P, it will last much longer compared to 1440P resolution. An increased quality of video leads to much larger files and therefore, fills up the device much quicker.
Many companies list their product comparisons where you can view and compare the recording times of different devices. Click here to view our list.
A few notes:
- The battery life will run out in most cases before you reach your maximum storage capacity
- Different device firmware, compression and other factors will alter the recording time for the same memory capacity
- Battery life is generally reported when fully charged, IR closed and resolution set to 720P.
For more information, refer to our Body Camera Prices & Features Comparison article.