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Eyes Everywhere - How Body Cameras Reshape Private Security

August 29, 2023

Eyes Everywhere - How Body Cameras Reshape Private Security

In recent years, the use of body cameras has emerged as a transformative technology in various fields, and private security is no exception. As private security staff are entrusted with safeguarding properties, assets, and people, the integration of body cameras has proven to be a game-changer. These unobtrusive devices offer numerous benefits, enhancing accountability, transparency, and efficiency while also providing valuable evidence in critical situations.

Body cameras instill a heightened sense of responsibility and accountability among private security personnel. Knowing that their actions are being recorded, security staff tend to adhere more closely to their training and protocols, which will promote professionalism and ethical conduct. This newfound sense of responsibility fosters trust with clients, as they can be assured that their security personnel are operating in a manner consistent with the highest standards and their expectations.

As a brief example, consider a private security officer patrolling a high-end retail store who is confronted by an irate customer. The customer accuses them of being aggressive, however, upon reviewing the body camera footage, it becomes evident that security handled the situation calmly and professionally, effectively diffusing the confrontation. This recorded evidence not only vindicates the security officer, but also protects the reputation of the store and its management, especially in a high-end location where the store’s reputation may drive such high-end sales.

In addition, transparency is also vital in the private security industry, as clients rely on security teams to maintain the safety of their premises and assets. Body cameras facilitate transparency by offering an unbiased record of events, ensuring that both clients and security providers have access to accurate information.

A situation that I encountered early on in my police career in New Jersey involved a private security company that was contracted to provide event security for a large public gathering where the streets were closed off in a “block party” setting and open container laws were waived. As one can imagine, this event involved a lot of alcohol. During the event, a minor scuffle broke out, and an attendee alleged that one of the security guards used excessive force. Thanks to the body camera footage the security guard had from his body camera, I was able to immediately review the incident when I arrived. As a result of reviewing the footage immediately after the incident with the complaining attendee, the attendee, even though inebriated, was able to recognize that he was wrong. This type of swift response based on factual evidence reinforces the trust of the event organizers and attendees in the security team's professionalism.

In the event of security breaches, thefts, accidents, or other incidents, body cameras act as valuable documentation tools. Private security staff can capture real-time footage of the incident scene, allowing for a comprehensive review and analysis during the investigation process that follows later on.. This footage can also be shared with law enforcement agencies if necessary, aiding in their efforts to resolve the situation promptly.

An example of this in action would be if a private security officer were to be patrolling a construction site and observes suspicious activity near valuable equipment. When confronted, the trespassers become aggressive, leading to a physical altercation. The security officer activates the body camera, capturing the entire incident, including the appearance of the perpetrators and their license plate number as they flee. That type of footage would serve as a crucial piece of evidence for both the internal investigation by the security company and the police inquiry, eventually leading to the arrest of the trespassers.

Body camera footage also serves as an excellent training tool for private security staff. Supervisors and trainers can use recorded incidents to evaluate an officer's response to various situations, identify areas for improvement, and develop tailored training programs. This continuous learning process enhances the overall performance and effectiveness of the security team. Take, for instance, when a private security team is responsible for providing security at a large-scale music festival. After the event, the security team (and all others deemed appropriate) can gather to review the body camera footage from different officers. They can analyze how each officer handled various scenarios, such as crowd control, lost persons, and minor medical emergencies. By identifying both effective and less effective approaches, the team can refine their strategies and ensure a more successful event the following year.

One of the most significant advantages of body cameras is their potential to de-escalate conflicts. When individuals are aware that their actions are being recorded, they are often less likely to engage in aggressive or disruptive behavior. This de-escalation effect can be particularly beneficial in potentially volatile situations, reducing the risk of violence and injury.

In my career, I have seen where private security officers stationed outside a nightclub in a downtown area have encountered groups of intoxicated patrons involved in heated arguments. These types of situations can escalate easily, especially since alcohol is involved, but once the patrons notice the body camera on the uniform, oftentimes some of the less inebriated members of the group are able to pacify the rest of their group, realizing that their actions are being recorded. This type of de-escalation allows the security officer to peacefully resolve the issue and prevent any further disturbances.

Private security personnel often work in challenging and high-risk environments, where they may face false allegations or claims of misconduct. Body camera footage serves as a potent form of legal protection for security staff, providing an objective account of their actions during critical incidents. In today’s world, it can seem as if the possibility of litigation is always right around the corner.

In one area where I worked as a police officer, there was a gated community that had their own security personnel. During a routine security check at a private residence, which involved just walking around the residence and making sure that everything appeared in order, one of the security officers was accused of stealing valuable items from the homeowner. Fortunately, this officer had activated their body camera during the entire shift. The footage not only confirmed the officer's innocence but also aided us, as law enforcement, in identifying the real culprit, who was caught on camera engaging in the theft. This was a tremendous “break” in the case because it definitely looked bad for the security officer from the onset!

During emergencies or crisis situations, body cameras can be instrumental in coordinating responses and ensuring effective crisis management. The footage captured by security staff on the ground can be shared in real-time with incident commanders and relevant stakeholders, providing them with critical information to make informed decisions. On a recent trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey, I observed security staff that was responsible for securing a large event space when a fire alarm went off on one of the floors. While I observed their response, I noted that the security staff immediately activated their body cameras, which would have recorded the evacuation process, the communication with other emergency responders, and the overall situation. This footage was likely relayed to the central security office, allowing them to assess the extent of the disruption, as it was a false alarm, and plan their responses accordingly..

In conclusion, body cameras have emerged as an invaluable tool for private security staff, revolutionizing the way security operations are conducted. By promoting accountability, transparency, and professionalism, these devices enhance client trust and confidence in security providers. The ability to document incidents, aid investigations, and support training programs further bolsters the effectiveness of private security teams. Moreover, body cameras contribute to de-escalating conflicts, protecting security staff legally, and facilitating emergency response during crisis situations. With their widespread adoption, body cameras have become an indispensable asset in the arsenal of private security, elevating the standard of safety and protection in various industries and settings.