3 Tips for Body-Worn Camera Buy-in
In the last few years, police departments around the country have begun implementing body-worn camera (BWC) technology to increase accountability and transparency. While the benefits of body-worn camera adoption are usually clear to command staff, officers often voice concerns about the logistics and practicalities of their work being constantly policed.
Command staff have their research cut out for them in choosing the best body-worn camera hardware and software options and creating effective policies, but even with the best technology, a BWC program will never run smoothly without buy-in from the officers who will use the cameras. Achieving officer buy-in should be factored into a department’s strategy and timeline for adopting BWCs. Here are a few places to start:
Make space for constructive feedback during policy creation
Once a department has decided to adopt body-worn cameras, the command staff should communicate the reasoning and goals for the program with all officers. BWCs represent a significant change in how officers do their jobs, and command staff need to be willing to listen to questions and concerns as officers get used to the idea—before officers begin using the technology in the field. Whether through email surveys, forums or department meetings, administrators should set aside times to make sure officers feel heard on the issue.
Use the harshest critics as the committee to pilot BWC programs
During the feedback process, some officers will voice more concerns than others. Command staff should consider asking these officers to help develop a working policy and test the camera hardware options. Collaborating with the officers who voice the most opposition to implementing BWCs will ensure that the BWC policy addresses the major concerns of the officers who will use the equipment. Turning the most vocal critics into supporters will also help get the rest of the department on board.
Clearly communicate policies and training schedules
Officers will be more willing to accept BWCs if they know what is expected of them. Once command staff has taken officer feedback into account and developed an effective policy, they should use a document management system such as PowerDMS to send the policy out to every staff member whose work will be affected by the new BWC technology. Administrators can then track electronic signatures to make sure every officer has read and signed off on policies. Command staff can also use a document management system to provide ongoing training to ensure officers know how to operate BWC equipment.
BWC programs can be immensely beneficial for police departments, but they can’t be effective without officer buy-in. Departments should involve officers in the process of creating and testing BWC policies and technology, so BWCs can be tools not only to increase police accountability but also to improve law enforcement as a whole.