Building an effective BWC program starts with creating comprehensive policies and training.
Correctional officers need to be absolutely clear about how and when to use BWCs.
Here are some things departments should consider when creating balanced policies for body-worn cameras in corrections:
Balance the interests of both officers and inmates
In law enforcement, much of the conversation about body-worn camera policy centers around privacy concerns.
Privacy rights are not as much of an issue in corrections, because courts have ruled that the 1st and 4th Amendments are limited inside correctional facilities.
In other words, inmates do not have the same privacy rights as average citizens. They don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and they are not protected from searches and seizures.
However, correctional facilities still have a responsibility to care for inmates. And prisoners still have some constitutional rights.
For example, the 8th Amendment protects inmates from “cruel and unusual punishment,” which can include inhumane treatment or “a violation of a person's basic dignity.”
Constant surveillance may not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. But it can be degrading, especially in vulnerable situations like showers or strip searches.
Therefore, departments should consider the interests of both officers and inmates while crafting body-worn camera policy.
Body-worn camera policy in corrections must address exactly when officers are required to activate cameras and when they should turn them off.
The policies should also specify what parts of videos should be redacted to protect the privacy of both inmates and officers.
Consult with experts to help develop the policy
Corrections agencies don’t have to go it alone when creating a body-worn camera program.
Legal consultants and subject matter experts can help agencies create comprehensive, effective policies that protect both officers and inmates.
For example, when the leaders at Parker Police Department were creating their body-worn camera program, they consulted with other agencies and gathered information from research studies. They also reached out to experts from the DA’s office and the ACLU.
Again, corrections agencies face different challenges with BWCs than law enforcement agencies. But they could still benefit from the insights from agencies that have already implemented BWCs.
And experts from organizations such as the ACLU can help ensure that BWC policies are lawful, ethical, and respectful of inmates’ rights.
Develop a comprehensive training program
Body-worn cameras will not do any good if officers don’t know how or when to use them.
After creating body-worn camera policies, corrections agencies should develop a comprehensive training schedule. This will ensure that every officer receives thorough training before using body-worn cameras.
Training should cover every aspect of the BWC policy and use – from how to operate the cameras to how to tag and store video footage.
It’s not enough to just train officers during program implementation. Departments should require retraining on BWC operations and policy at least annually.
A training management software tool like PowerDMS can help streamline training and retraining. It can also track signatures to ensure that every staff member reads BWC policies.
In order to get officers to buy-in to a new body-worn camera program, corrections agencies should emphasize the benefits and objectives of BWCs during the training process.
They should remain open to officer questions and concerns throughout training.
Continually improve policies
No policy is perfect. And even effective policies have to be updated as technology changes and agencies grow and adapt.
Body-worn camera use in corrections is a relatively recent phenomenon. So as agencies implement BWC programs, they should constantly re-examine and adjust policies.
Every department and facility has different needs. So administrators should take into account officer feedback, lessons from real-world application, and the changing needs of the organization.
Body-worn cameras have the potential to be tremendously beneficial in corrections.
As you seek to create a BWC program for your agency, be sure to consult with experts, create consistent training, and regularly review your policy.