Bodycam systems in Germany
Who is using bodycams, why are they using them and what do citizens and leaders have to say about the spread of bodycams in Germany?
Acceptance of bodycam systems in Germany is at an all-time high. Due to thousands of yearly incidents against officers, security officials and firefighters, more and more regions have embraced bodycam technology. In order to protect frontline professionals, record evidence of crimes committed against them, and to realise transparency on both sides of the bodycam.
Bodycam systems in Germany: who uses them already and why?
Federal and state police have been the forerunners of bodycam solutions. For years many federal states, as well as the national federal police have tested and implemented bodycam solutions as answer to the growing number of incidents and escalations. To date bodycams serve to protect police officers in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Lower Saxony, Hamburg, Hesse, North-Rhine Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony and the federal police. To give an indication of the reasons:
- There are thousands of cases of violence and aggression against police officers yearly: in just the city of Gorlitz, the statistics show a 12% increase in just one year (2020-2021). In a larger city like Hamburg, there is an average of 2000 such incidents every year. Nationally, numbers as far back as 2016 show that over 45,000 police officers a year are the victim of ‘accomplished resistance crimes’.
- Politicians, police officers and citizens consider bodycam systems to provide an objective means for evidence collection, especially in the modern world of selective filming of the police by the public.
- To provide transparency, and to be able to show the public the good work conducted by police officers.
- Demand from the public: 72.5% of those surveyed supported the wearing of bodycams by German police officers.
Emergency services: while so far there have been several trials, for example in Berlin and Darmstadt, bodycams have not yet been widely introduced for German emergency services. The CDU, one of Germany’s most prominent parties has called for immediate implementation of bodycam solutions to answer the challenges faced by German firefighters and paramedics. The call for bodycams resulted from:
- Police statistics: 30 emergency services professionals fall victim to abuse, every day.
- Crimes against frontline professionals in the emergency services often not being brought to court due to a lack of evidence resulting from chaotic emergency situations. Bodycams therefore give answer to the need for objective evidence collection.
- Frontline professionals in the emergency services indicate that they feel safer wearing bodycams when there is a possibility of interaction with the public.
Public transport officials: Deutsche Bahn and Nordwestbahn, and KVB are some of the public transport providers has already started a year pilot with bodycams to address the growing dangers for their frontline professionals. The bodycams have been acquired to:
- Reduce physical attacks and verbal abuse against transport officials
- Improve evidence collection and conviction rates
- Protect staff during their daily duties, but also especially during evenings, nights, weekends and sporting events. A Deutsche Bahn spokesperson said the upper-body cameras were particularly effective in these cases
- Increase the feelings of safety and support for (semi) lone workers
Municipal Police (Kommunaler Ordnungsdienst): have started to be equipped with bodycam systems to combat rising incidents, and the related costs associated with escalations. Due to a lack of respect in many instances, government officials considered bodycams a necessity. The bodycams:
- Offer protection against hostility and violence by deterring attacks
- Collect indisputable evidence for prosecution
- Give the municipal police a non-violent authority tool to increase their safety and feelings of safety
What do politics, society and business leaders think in Germany?
It is clear that both frontline professionals in many sectors, and a strong majority of the public want to implement bodycam solutions. For all the reasons listed above it is deemed a necessary technology in Germany. But what do political leaders, government officials and commissioners have to say about bodycam solutions? A selection of quotes and opinions was collected.
“Bodycams contribute to de-escalation in police and fire service operations and also improve the evidence in attacks against emergency services. It was important to me to also anchor this in the budget in order to further improve the equipment of the Berlin police and the fire brigade,” Iris Spranger | Senator of the interior (SPD)
Even then, the CDU had criticized that the test came much too late and was superfluous because of the positive experiences from other federal states. Geisel admitted: “We’re running late. I can’t deny that. The consistently good experiences of police authorities in other countries make renewed scientific expertise, as planned by the Senate for Berlin, unnecessary.” Senator Andreas Geisel (SPD)
“We have to raise awareness of the dangers of the police profession – and we can take very specific measures, to make it safer. One such measure could be the nationwide use of bodycams.” Roland Wöller | Interior Minister of Saxony
The CDU calls for the police, fire brigade and rescue services to be equipped with so-called bodycams as quickly as possible – and permanently. According to the police union (GdP), during the previous test operation in Berlin there was consistently positive feedback from the police officers and at the same time no complaints from the population. Against this background, the CDU sees the bodycams as a “successful means of de-escalation and evidence“.
“On the one hand, the camera serves to secure relevant evidence. but it should also act as a deterrent to potential perpetrators and make it possible to check the legality of police actions” Michael Kummer, Police Chief Kamenz
“Bodycams can increase the safety of municipal emergency services. This is especially true for female emergency workers, who can gain more respect as a result.” Elke Zeeb | Spokewoman, Greens Essen City Council
“In 2019, the KVB recorded around 230 lost days due to physical assaults on employees, in 2020 it was already 580. The bodycams should help to stop this development. They are intended to have a de-escalating effect and increase the safety of those who wear the body cameras as well as that of other people involved.” Sascha Lautwein | Head of Safety on the Rail, KVB
“The cameras make the dangerous police job safer. Anything that tends to protect colleagues on duty in any way, to have a de-escalating effect in any way, is to me an advantage for the colleagues. In this form, the cameras have probably already proven themselves, even if the evaluation of the pilot project is still to be seen and I would like to see the use of the bodycam expanded to cover the entire country.” Uwe Spallek | Deputy head of police union GdP, Saxony-Anhalt
Bodycam systems are already widely accepted by the public, politicians, law enforcement and other frontline professionals. Now it is up to everyone to make sure that any frontline professional that is at risk and in need, will be equipped with a bodycam for safety, protection, and indisputable evidence.