May 04, 2023
Private security personnel play a crucial role in maintaining safety and security in a variety of settings, including residential communities, office buildings, retail establishments, and other public spaces. These individuals are responsible for enforcing rules, deterring criminal activity, and responding to emergencies, and their actions are often recorded by security cameras or witnessed by other people. However, in recent years, there has been a growing push for private security personnel to wear body cameras, similar to those worn by police officers.
First and foremost, body cameras can help protect private security personnel from false accusations of misconduct. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for security personnel to face unfounded claims of excessive force, discrimination, or other violations of their authority. In many cases, these accusations are made by individuals who are unhappy with the security personnel's actions or who are looking to cause trouble.
Early in my own career as a police officer, I worked in a tourist town that had a relatively large bar district that employed their own security, more commonly referred to as bouncers. It was not uncommon during the summer months to have at least a dozen incidents at night across the different bars in which highly intoxicated patrons were causing some sort of a disturbance inside an establishment.
During those disturbances, the bouncers would generally have to physically remove the patron and would usually flag down a police officer to handle the matter further. It was not uncommon for the patron to claim some sort of excessive force or unfair treatment involving the bouncer. Generally, cooler heads prevailed and we were able to resolve the issues, however, on more than one occasion that I was involved in, the involved patron pursued criminal complaints and/or lawsuits.
While I wasn’t personally involved in the litigation that followed those complaints, I know that the situations surely made the bouncers uncomfortable and put them in a stressful situation in which they likely were just doing their jobs.
Without any evidence to refute these claims, security personnel may face serious consequences, including job loss, legal action, and damage to their reputation. Body cameras can provide a clear record of what happened during an incident, which can help exonerate security personnel if they are wrongly accused. In many cases, just the patron being aware of the existence of body camera footage may deter a false complaint.
In a similar fashion, body cameras can also help prevent misconduct on behalf of the security personnel. Knowing that their actions are being recorded can encourage security personnel to act in a more professional and responsible manner. Body cameras can also serve as a reminder that security personnel are representatives of their company or organization and that their actions reflect on that entity as a whole. When security personnel know that their behavior is being monitored, they are more likely to follow established protocols and treat people with respect.
Another benefit of body cameras for private security personnel is that they can help improve transparency and accountability. Just like the police, private security personnel have a responsibility to act in the best interest of the public and to follow established rules and regulations. By wearing body cameras, security personnel can provide a clear record of their actions, which can be used to hold them accountable if they violate these responsibilities.
Body camera footage can also be used to assess the performance of security personnel and to identify areas where additional training may be needed. Supervisors can use the footage to ensure quality performance of their employees, stakeholders can use the footage to expand their business by showing exemplary performance to prospective clients, and individual employees can review footage to evaluate themselves or others in certain circumstances to use as a learning tool.
Body cameras can also help improve public trust in private security personnel. Unfortunately, many people view private security personnel as untrained and unprofessional individuals who lack the authority to enforce the law. In my law enforcement experience, I have heard unarmed security officers referred to by many derogatory words. By wearing body cameras and other proper equipment, security personnel can demonstrate that they are serious about their role and that they take their responsibilities seriously.
Finally, body cameras can help private security personnel be more effective in their jobs. When security personnel know that their actions are being recorded, they may be more likely to intervene in situations where criminal activity or other problems are occurring. Body camera footage can also be used to identify patterns of criminal activity or to track individuals who may be engaged in suspicious behavior. This information can be used to improve security measures and to prevent future incidents from occurring within the jurisdiction of the security personnel. As an added bonus, this footage can also be provided to law enforcement to aid in any of their investigations.
Several years ago, I was involved in a case in which the use of body camera footage utilized by private security proved to be extremely important. While I was working as a police officer, there was a report of a retail shoplifting in a nearby jurisdiction. As patrol cars were responding, the dispatcher informed the officers that the retail store loss prevention team had identified the suspects currently in the store as an organized shoplifting ring that was responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars in thefts across the northeast.
Upon arrival, the officers made contact with the suspects, who began to flee in a vehicle. As they were fleeing, the suspect who was driving the vehicle attempted to run over a police officer and an officer on scene ultimately shot and killed the suspect driver. The situation unfolded quickly and it was quickly in the news and began creating a stir with accusations of the officer needlessly using deadly force.
Unfortunately, the police officers in that area were not equipped with body cameras or dash cameras, so they were not able to easily refute these claims. Within hours, however, investigators were able to determine that the loss prevention team at the retail store wore body cameras and were able to produce it immediately upon request, quelling the public outcry and showing the incident unfold. On the footage, it was clear that the suspects had been shoplifting, eluded the loss prevention team, attempted to avoid police, and purposely attempted to run over an officer, at which time an officer shot at the driver, which prevented the other officer from getting killed.
It definitely seems to follow that private security personnel should use body cameras for many of the same reasons that police officers do. Body cameras can help protect security personnel from false accusations of misconduct, prevent misconduct from occurring in the first place, improve transparency and accountability, improve public trust in security personnel, and help security personnel be more effective in their jobs.
While there may be some concerns about the cost and implementation of body cameras, these issues can be addressed through careful planning and a commitment to using the technology in a responsible and effective manner. In the end, the benefits of body cameras for private security personnel far outweigh any potential drawbacks, and they should be considered a standard tool in the security industry.