Developing Body-Worn Camera Policy in Corrections
Based on recent trends, it’s safe to estimate that 80 percent of all cops will be wired for video within the next three years. But body-worn cameras (BWCs) aren’t exclusively for law enforcement. They are also becoming an effective part of correctional operations. The corrections industry has relied on technology, including body alarms, surveillance cameras, and locating devices, for decades. And now live-streaming BWCs are one more technology being used to help resolve complaints, increase accountability and keep officers and inmates safe.
Earlier this year, the Atlanta Department of Corrections became the first detention facility to implement BWCs. At a recent CAMA conference hosted by Atlanta DOC, they demonstrated how control officers and supervisors can now watch live interactions with inmates and quickly respond to serious incidents.
Building an effective BWC program starts with creating comprehensive policies and training. While prisons are new territory for BWCs, the operational concerns may not be as extensive as in law enforcement since the 1st and 4th Amendments are limited inside a facility. Here are some things corrections should consider when creating balanced BWC policies:
Balance the interests of both officers and inmates
The interests of both officers and inmates must be considered while crafting policies. Adopting a “balanced philosophy” for body-worn cameras in prisons will look different than it does in community policing since inmates do not have the same rights as average citizens. However, since inmates are subject to constant surveillance, even in vulnerable situations like showers or strip searches, BWC policies must address exactly when officers are required to activate cameras and when they should turn them off in order to respect and protect inmates. The policies should also specify what parts of videos should be redacted in order to protect the privacy of both inmates and officers.
Develop a comprehensive training program
After creating and honing a foundational first draft, corrections agencies should develop a training schedule to make sure every officer receives thorough training before using body-worn cameras. A policy management software tool can help administrators verify that every staff member reads and signs off on BWC policies. In order to get officers to buy-in to the program, agencies should emphasize the benefits and objectives of BWCs and remain open to officer questions and concerns throughout the process.
Continually improve policies
No policy is perfect. And even effective policies have to be updated as technology changes and agencies grow and adapt. As corrections agencies implement body-worn cameras, administrators should constantly re-examine and adjust policies taking into account officer feedback, lessons from real-world application, and the changing needs of the organization.