Pharmacy staff in Boots stores in UK given bodycams for protection
A rise in violence and abuse from retail customers have led to the implementation of bodycams in 60 Boots stores in the UK. The goal is to record interactions with the public and prevent abuse.
In April 2020, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association published survey results highlighting the fact that more than 90% of 1,200 respondents had experienced abusive or aggressive incidents in their pharmacies in the preceding month. It also showed that 80% of respondents thought that violent incidents had increased in the last month, compared with the usual levels.
Bodycams in retail
The rising trend of abuse targeted at retail or healthcare workers is nothing new, as previous accounts of violence targeted at staff demonstrate. A spokesperson for Boots explained to The Pharmaceutical Journal that a bodycam pilot started after concerns “about the increasing problem of violence and abuse experienced by hundreds of thousands of retail workers, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic”.
After the pilot in early 2021, Boots employees (this includes pharmacy staff) working in 60 stores have now been kitted out with body cameras. The aim is to wear them in an attempt to curb the increasing abuse from customers.
The bodycams given to staff are not recording all day. Boots staff can turn the bodycam on if they are in the middle of a potentially escalating interaction with a customer, who they can notify of the bodycam’s activation. According to the Boots spokesperson, the bodycams have been “hugely successful in de-escalating issues as they arise, and our team members say they feel safer and more confident when wearing them.”
An added benefit of bodycams is that if any employee experiences an incident with an abusive customer, they can log it. Afterwards, it can be matched with footage from the store’s CCTV and the employee’s bodycam. These recordings are useful when working in collaboration with the police to arrest and prosecute people who display violence towards staff.
Additional protection needed
In addition to Well Pharmacy, Boots and more than 100 chief executives of UK retailers, wrote a letter to prime minister Boris Johnson on 2 July 2021. In this letter, they requested his support for the amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. The aim was to better protect employees from violence and abuse. In the letter, a survey conducted by the British Retail Consortium was quoted. This shows “a 7% year-on-year increase in incidents of violence and abuse in 2019 — 455 cases each day”. “Together we have invested £1.2bn in crime prevention measures in the last year,” the letter stated. It goes on to explain that this includes a wide range of extra protections, involving some companies supplying bodycams and employing extra security guards.