The Bodycam: a non-violent policing tool
What can bodycams offer to law enforcement organisations worldwide in terms of preventing the need for weapons and violence? Who can benefit from bodycam systems? What other non-lethal policing tools are currently used and what are their results? This article dives into how bodycams can positively and cost-effectively impact law enforcement worldwide.
Over the past few years there have been high profile cases of violent and deadly confrontations between law enforcers and the public. With new less-lethal tools such as tasers and pepper spray, police organisations have tried to address this, with limited results. Experiences have shown that bodycams themselves are a policing tool which inherently limits violent and life-threatening interactions, through their power of de-escalation. Often times an escalating situation is calmed through the mentioning, or activation of the bodycam.
Especially for law enforcement organisations that do not have weapons at their disposal, such as municipal police, city guards, security services, tax authorities and more, the bodycam is the ideal tool to prevent and de-escalate rising tensions and violent confrontations.
The move towards less-lethal policing tools
There have been numerous incidents in many countries wherein interactions between law enforcement and the public have turned violent, dangerous and deadly. It has led to police departments adopting stun guns and pepper spray to offset the lethality of using guns during escalating interactions. While there is widespread acceptance of these so called ‘less-lethal’ weapons, they have often also resulted in life threatening situations, with severe injuries and deaths as a result.
An Amnesty International investigation found 500 confirmed cases of death by stun guns in just 10 years, in just the United States. With thousands of injuries, many of which cased permanent damages. In more than 90% of these cases, the suspect was unarmed. This is crucial information as situations with unarmed suspects resulting in deaths should be avoided at all costs. Medical research confirmed that stun guns can and do cause cardiac arrest, even when the suspect is generally healthy. Even when stun guns are used properly and do not cause severe injury or death, they are often ineffective. A Los Angeles police investigation found that in over 1000 incidents where tasers were used, it resulted in the desired outcome only 53% of the time. Experts say there are many reasons why, including the type of clothing, sudden movement, the device malfunctioning and the presence of alcohol or drugs in a suspects system. With a 53% fail rate, this less-lethal policing tool carries with it huge risks for police officers and citizens alike.
Chemical weapons such as pepper spray are another less-lethal policing tool that has caught on worldwide. They affect the respiratory system and eyes of anyone within a 2 meter radius, including the officer that uses it. While pepper spray is also hailed as a breakthrough to prevent violence and deaths, there are several crucial caveats. A research review looked at 11 countries where pepper spray was introduced. It found 9261 injuries, of which 25.5% were moderate to severe. In several cases the suspect died and dozens suffered permanent disabilities. What’s more, they have a serious potential for misuse, as they are often used in cases where alternative de-escalation tactics would have been more effective, especially concerning the risk to police officers. Another research found that in almost 1 in every 4 uses, the officer puts themself at serious risk; the range (2 meters) means they are often directly affected by the spray. Also, when there is wind or rain, pepper spray is ineffective.
It is clear that there are serious limitations to both ‘less-lethal’ policing tools as they are still weapons that can often cause permanent disabilities and deaths. Police and law enforcement organisations worldwide have increasingly adopted another tool which has shown to effectively de-escalate many situations, without the use of any weapon. This tool is of course, the bodycam.
The bodycam as non-violent policing tool
Experiences in many types of law enforcement organisations show that the bodycam is an effective tool that often de-escalates rising tensions. Leading to a decreased need to use weapons at all, and therefore prevent the risk of injuries or deaths. A 2022 research from the Netherlands found that in 70% of cases, the bodycam de-escalates incidents. The de-escalation of tensions removed the need for violence or weapons. Brussels police confirmed this, stating that as a result of bodycams, there is less need for violence and deadly weapons to be used. It is also a fact that there is less violence used against police in the Netherlands as a result of bodycam systems. In Brazil, an astounding 87% drop in violence used was realised, just one year after the introduction of bodycams.
They do so in a cost-effective manner, as bodycams have shown to pay for themselves through a reduction of lawsuits, complaints against police officers, damages and the need to finance campaigns to build public trust.
Experiences of ZEPCAM customers
Experiences of ZEPCAM customers show that the bodycam is an effective policing tool for de-escalation and the prevention of violence. Especially for those law enforcement organisations who do not have the deadly tools available to regular police officers.
Watch this interview to get some sense of the effectiveness of bodycams, and how they prevent violence being used in the first place. For public transport officials in The Hague, there is a 4 step de-escalation strategy with the mentioning and use of their T2+ bodycams. This leads to a drastic reduction in the need for violence during interactions with the public.
It is clear that as more and more organisations adopt bodycam systems for de-escalation tactics, we will see:
- reductions in the amount of incidents,
- the need for violence and deadly policing tools,
- and injuries and deaths as a result of their use.
The widespread public support for bodycam systems further shows their crucial role in the future of policing worldwide. As a proven policing tool which often removes the need for violence and deadly weapons, the future of police-citizen interactions looks bright. With bodycams leading the way to protect the well-being of officers and citizens alike.