Policy transparency critical when supporting body-worn cameras
- Written by Amy Dinsmore
- September 3 2015
Body-worn cameras have the potential to revolutionize the law enforcement sector. They are creating a level of transparency that has been unmatched in the past, and agencies need to be ready to deal with the added scrutiny before they put a program into place.
A study from the Police Executive Research Forum found that early body-worn camera initiatives revealed a few key consequences that come alongside the technology . In particular, the research revealed that once body-worn cameras are put in place, the public begins to expect them. This means that it is extremely difficult to go back on any body-worn camera plan. It also create an expectation that footage will be made available upon request.
“Operational challenges emerge when the public has access to police footage.”
These realities of law enforcement in the era of body-worn cameras make transparency an integral part of operations, and your officers must be able to stand up to that scrutiny. Law enforcement document management software technologies can play an integral role in helping agencies deal with these challenges.
Understanding the policy issues that come with body-worn cameras
Major operational challenges emerge when the public has the right to access footage of police work. Any mistake made by an officer will be put under the microscope, and an agency’s ability to protect itself from litigation stems from establishing the right policies and internal certification methods. A few noteworthy policy challenges that come alongside a body-worn camera strategy include:
- Creating policies to prepare officers for any scenario.
- Making sure every officer has read, understood and signed off on policies.
- Keeping internal certifications compliant with with industry regulations.
- Verifying that no users have slipped through the cracks.
Policy management becomes exponentially more challenging when dealing with body-worn cameras. A good document management software solution can play an integral role in helping agencies control documentation and prove that officers are given the tools they need to handle the transparency requirements associated with body-worn cameras.
Using document management to revolutionize policy efforts
A good DMS will simplify policy creation, distribution, management and compliance initiatives. Some of the advantages delivered by a modern DMS are:
- Freedom to update electronic documents easily and ping all users that they need to read and sign the new version.
- Ability to create parameters around a policy – asking users to complete a short quiz before signing, for example – to ensure policy comprehension.
- Electronic signature capture tools that let employees sign off on policies within the system.
- Application accessibility on diverse devices so users can get to policy documents even if they are outside the office.
When combined, these capabilities let law enforcement agencies streamline every facet of their policy management plans. At the same time, going digital moves organizations away from the cumbersome manual processes that come with paper records and automate many policy distribution, auditing and collaboration tasks.
Body-worn cameras are forcing law enforcement agencies to become more transparent, and they can’t go back once they open that new operational can of worms. The right policies can protect agencies and officers against the added visibility created by body-worn cameras. This is accomplished by clarifying expectations for officers and documenting that agencies have done their part in training employees.