Here at Churchill, we love assessing new security technology and seeing how it can be implemented in the private security sector. Previously, we explored how drone technology and CCTV is helping to protect private property and businesses across the country. In this blog, we’re focusing on the increasing use of body cameras.
Whilst wearing body cameras isn’t anything new, especially in places like the USA, they’re becoming more and more commonplace in the UK, both among the police and in the private security sector. As body cameras start to play an increasingly important role in both public and private security, it’s time to take a closer look at body cameras and their usages, as well as any laws and restrictions.
So, let’s dive right into some of the most frequently asked questions about body cameras:
Body cameras, also known as body-worn cameras or BWC, are small, portable cameras that are typically worn on the body. The camera could be embedded in glasses or attached to a helmet or body harness. The camera itself can capture audio, video footage, images, or a combination of all three.
They’re probably most well-known for their use by police officers but are also used by private citizens like cyclists.
In the UK, there are currently no laws against using body-worn cameras in public settings. Things like helmet cameras are frequently used by members of the general public, such as cyclists or motorcyclists to capture their journey and provide evidence in the event of an accident.
Filming the general public does raise some legal questions. For average citizens, filming in public is perfectly legal. According to the Met police:
“Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel.”
Obviously, that doesn’t permit individuals to harass or target others with recording equipment. The law also changes when it comes to filming on private property. Different requirements such as GDPR and SIA licensing will apply for businesses and private security companies using and viewing bodycam footage. This will be covered under ‘Do you need an SIA licence to use a body camera?’.
Body-worn cameras were first used in the UK back in 2005 when the technology was trialled by the Devon and Cornwall police.
In 2007, the first national pilot of body-worn cameras was carried out in Plymouth. The final report found that wearing body cameras helped to reduce complaints by 14.3%, with no complaints against officers wearing head cameras. Time spent on paperwork and file preparation was reduced by 22.4%, freeing up time for officers to spend an extra 50 minutes of a 9-hour shift on mobile and foot patrols.
By 2010, over 40 UK police areas used body-worn cameras in some capacity. These days, police areas up and down the UK, including Scotland and Northern island use body-worn technology as standard, using the footage to help resolve complaints about the police more quickly, as well as increase early guilty pleas.
With abuse against key workers shamefully increasing during the pandemic, body-worn technology was deployed to help deter verbal and physical abuse against employees in healthcare and retail.
Clinical staff at the Royal Derby Hospital’s A&E will wear body-worn cameras that will only be switched on if an individual is being violent or abusive.
Similarly, Central England Co-Op also rolled out body cameras in 50 stores to help deter threats and acts of violence towards retail staff.
Yes! Private security guards can use body-worn cameras whilst on the job. While it’s not yet standard practice for many security companies across the UK, more and more security professionals are adopting body-worn technology.
This seems to be especially true in places like Universities. Security staff at Bristol University, Middlesex University and the University of Essex all started wearing body-worn cameras during 2020- 2021. In the future, there’s a good chance that we could see more and more security professionals adopting body-worn cameras.
Just like with CCTV and drone footage, you may need an SIA licence if you’re using body-worn cameras or headcams for security purposes or as part of your job. Body cameras are treated like CCTV by the Security Industry Authority. Even if you’re viewing CCTV footage from a bodycam, you will still need an SIA licence.
According to Gov.UK, you will need a Public Space Surveillance (CCTV) licence if:
For more information about SIA licensing and body-worn cameras, you can visit the website here.
Just like CCTV footage, recordings made by a body-worn camera can be used as evidence in court. Unlike CCTV, which is normally at a distance and silent, body-worn cameras can provide up-close video and audio of incidents as they happened.
This kind of footage could prove extremely useful in bringing criminals to justice, as well as providing evidence to help safeguard your guards and security company.
There are many benefits to wearing body cameras on the job, not just for the security officers but also for the security company:
They can help protect Guards against false accusations
Wearing a body camera can help to protect your security officers against false accusations e.g use of unjust physical force. Ensuring you’re recording footage throughout your shift will provide you with the evidence you need to defend against any untrue claims.
They can help safeguard your company’s reputation
Alleged bad behaviour by your staff can have a serious impact on your reputation as a security provider. Having bodycam footage of your security guard’s interactions not only protects them from false claims but also your company as a whole.
They can help ensure your guards are acting responsibly
On the flip side, if your security staff are acting in an irresponsible or wrong manner, you’ll want to know and correct it. Having your security officers wear body cameras can ensure they’re always upholding the values of your company.
They may help to deter trouble on the job
Having a body-worn camera constantly recording could deter people from being rude, uncooperative and even violent with your security officers, as this would be captured on footage and could be used against them.
Despite bringing some benefits to the police, private security and the public, there are still some notable cons of this technology:
The effectiveness of body cameras is disputed
According to the College of Policing, more evidence is needed about the effectiveness of BWCs. Current research doesn’t truly evaluate whether police accountability or their relationships with the public are improved by wearing body cameras.
Body-worn cameras may increase assaults against officers
Research carried out by the University of Cambridge and RAND Europe found that rates of assault against police officers were 15% higher when they were wearing body-worn cameras, challenging the assumption that cameras increase accountability.
There are concerns around privacy
Some councils in the UK have implemented body-worn videos without completing a Privacy Impact Assessment first. Privacy activists highlight concerns that body cameras and constant surveillance may fringe upon the privacy of innocent members of the public.
We have a wide range of CCTV technology and solutions available to businesses across all sectors.
A Range of CCTV Solutions
Here at Churchill Support Services, we have a range of CCTV solutions to suit a variety of needs. Whether you’re looking for permanent CCTV for a property or temporary surveillance for a construction site, we have the camera systems you need to protect your business.
24/7 Monitoring Available
Sometimes, CCTV cameras alone aren’t enough. To ensure your property, people and assets are protected, we can also offer a 24/7 monitoring service. Our highly trained CCTV operatives will monitor live footage for suspicious activity and respond appropriately.
SIA Licensed, Highly Trained
In order to carry out some key aspects of CCTV surveillance, you may need an SIA licence. At Churchill Support Services, we ensure that all our officers have a valid SIA licence and are vetted for a minimum of 5 years. With Churchill on the case, you’ll have peace of mind that your property is in the best possible hands.
Churchill Support Services is a leading cross-industry security provider, supplying professional and comprehensive solutions to organisations seeking expert security services and electronic systems.
To find out more about how Churchill can support your business and its operations, get in touch with us today.