5 quick tips for using policies to support body-worn camera programs
- Written by Amy Dinsmore
- January 7 2016
Body-worn cameras can protect police, but they also expose them to a higher degree of scrutiny. Establishing a framework for successful body worn camera projects begins with establishing the right policies. Cost-efficient document management software simplifies this process by digitizing policy creation, distribution and compliance measures. The result is a policy management environment that fosters innovation and protects your officers.
Building out policies that support body worn camera programs requires careful planning. These five quick tips can give you a starting point to create the internal rules, regulations and best practices that will safeguard against litigation while protecting officers:
1. Clearly establish when cameras will be used
Officers need to know exactly when the body-worn cameras will be recording their activity. In a best-case scenario, these cameras leave everybody aware that they are in a spotlight and cause both officers and bystanders to be more careful about their actions. In a worst-case scenario, an officer, unaware of being on camera, will do something controversial that leads to major problems for the department. In particular, you should also ensure officers know what the cameras will be able to capture.
2. Ensure officers know what will be done with footage
Who will have the right to look at video content from body-worn cameras? What processes will be followed when members of the public request footage? How does this content serve as evidence in court or for performance reviews? You must ensure that your policies answer these questions so your officers will be prepared for any contingency.
3. Provide clear messaging on the purpose of the project
Extra scrutiny and accountability can be an intimidating, overwhelming prospect for many police officers. The job is already stressful enough without adding more layers of tension. You can alleviate some of this stress through clear messaging on why the cameras are being used. This transparency can ensure your officers understand how the cameras can help them and why they should be open to the potential strain created by being on record.
4. Keep it simple
Complexity creates room for error. If your policies for body worn cameras are too complicated, it will leave room for misinterpretation or people not remembering every detail of the regulation. Simple, straightforward and actionable policies are the best when it comes to ensuring officer compliance in the field. Furthermore, many body worn camera initiatives are still in the pilot phase and are being run with extremely specific purposes. Keeping policies simple allows you to move these efforts forward with clear, concise internal regulations.
5. Update, update, update
Policies don’t need to be stagnant in the era of digital document management software. When you can easily edit and update policies, you gain the flexibility to regularly adjust the regulations you have created when circumstances dictate. Instead of trying to create a perfect policy and let it sit for years, gradually becoming less relevant, you can create the right policy for your immediate needs and gradually update it as the situation changes.
Policy management doesn’t need to be overwhelmingly complex when body worn cameras come into play. Instead, document management systems simplify policy creation and make it easier to establish best practices.