Front line staff are increasingly being issued with body worn video cameras (bodycams) to capture a secure point-of-view record of what happened during an incident. The video and audio recording can then be used as evidence if the material is correctly handled and stored.
Bodycams can help to deter verbal abuse and aggression, as people often calm down if they know they are being filmed. As such they provide an additional means of protection for front line staff and lone workers. The recorded evidence can also be used to refute false allegations made against staff in many walks of life.
Fire, ambulance and police officers are now deploying bodycams. They are also being given to prison service staff, private security officers, healthcare workers, railway workers, traffic wardens, parking attendants and other lone workers, who sometimes face abuse and the threat of violence in their jobs.
Bodycam footage can also be used for wider purposes such as training. Footage can be used to demonstrate best practice, provide feedback on an incident, to observe the interaction between staff members, and between them and the public, and to show new recruits the kinds of incidents that can take place.
Policy and correct usage
Before issuing staff with bodycams it is important to ensure use policies are put in place. In many countries the use of bodycams will come under CCTV surveillance and data protection legislation.
Anyone using a bodycam to monitor the activities of a member of the public in a public or private place, or to identify an individual, must also abide by the local data protection legislation, including observing the correct protocols for the handling and storage of video footage and audio recordings.
In short, employers must ensure their staff act responsibly, and be seen to be doing so, when it comes to protecting people’s privacy.
Responsible advocates of bodycams argue that it is best to be very open about their use, so people are aware they are being filmed or that they could be. Once they know this, it usually has the effect of deterring anti-social behaviour.
Selecting a bodycam
Modern bodycams are smaller, lighter and increasingly sophisticated in the type of features they now support including Full-HD video quality, infrared, night vision, integration with wearable equipment and even the ability to stream live footage to other devices.
When selecting a body worn video camera, key features to evaluate are:
The bodycam should be equipped with a powerful battery to ensure that recordings can be taken at any time throughout the entire period of use. This makes them the ideal companion for any critical situation.
For example, the 3500 mAh battery of Hytera’s bodycam flagship VM780 can support more than 9 hours continuous video shooting with 720 p (pixels) and 30 FPS (frames per second) under normal operation.
Memory options/ Tagging, content and uploading recorded media
Bodycams can either save the image and sound recordings directly on the device or, if equipped accordingly, forward them or even stream them in real time. This works, for example, via WiFi or a Bluetooth connection. Mission-critical situations can therefore also be quickly recorded and assessed from a control centre. With a smart administrative management system for bodycams, convenient monitoring and control of the cameras, video retrieval in real time and GPS tracking can be carried out directly from a central point. A central data management system can be used for the digital preservation of evidence, which stores, identifies and archives the recordings in a secure network.
Quality of recording/Night vision
Since the recordings of a bodycam are also often used to preserve evidence, the highest possible image resolution is important. This allows relevant details to be easily recognised if necessary. The rule of thumb also applies: the more pictures the camera takes per second, the smoother the picture. But the camera’s field of vision is also important. The more flexibly the device can be used and the larger the radius that the camera covers, the more easily information can be captured and processed.
All Hytera bodycams have a Full HD camera for excellent video and image capture. The VM780 is even equipped with a 216-degree rotating lens which makes this bodycam particularly flexible.
Even in poor visibility, the bodycam needs to do its job reliably. A night vision function and a light-sensitive camera as well as a camera light are therefore recommended.
Ruggedness of the device
In situations where bodycams are used, things are often a little rougher. That’s why it is important that the devices are robust enough to withstand shocks and drops without damage and are insensitive to moisture and humidity. It is therefore advisable to ensure that the bodycam meets at least protection classes IP67 and MIL-STD-810 G and has a robust, scratch-resistant display.
Depending on the area of application and location, it may be advisable for the bodycam to have a pre-recording function. This means that the bodycam is able to record continuously. However, whether this function can be used depends on the relevant legislation on video surveillance and data protection
Ergonomic design / easy to use
A bodycam should be easy to use: all important functions such as video recording, voice recording and emergency button should be quick and easy to use. Is the device sufficiently ergonomic to fit comfortably in your hand? Accessories such as clips and brackets as well as multiple charging stations make using bodycams and device management even more convenient.