“The bodycam is my ideal companion on patrol”

New research published by the Catholic Research University of Leuven (KU Leuven) has found great support and positivity from Belgian police for the bodycam. Police in 14 districts that use the bodycams have overwhelmingly indicated their support, with police officers experiencing the added benefits of bodycams in their daily duties. Even those that were initially sceptical have changed positions after using bodycams for a while.

Bodycams ZEPCAM round below

“The bodycam is my ideal companion on patrol. This is someone that can support my objective assessment of a situation. There are often no witnesses present and no one to confirm the facts so this is a very easy alternative.” Anonymous chief inspector.

The research from late 2021 found a great deal of positivity surrounding the implementation and use of bodycam solutions by Belgian police departments. Through focus groups and interviews the researcher found that the support of bodycam programs came from the classic reasons that we all know.

The bodycams de-escalate and protect officers from rising aggression

“I spend a lot of my working hours on traffic control where I often have discussions concerning the actions of drivers and fines. I have experienced before how there was only escalating verbal aggression in a situation, and from the moment I said that they were now being filmed, instantly their attitude changed and we were able to de-escalate and continue a conversation on a normal level. I believe that without the bodycam, that person would have continued escalating, resulting in something worse.” -Anonymous police officer.

Many other police officers confirm this trend; the use of bodycams calms the public as they know they are being filmed, and allows for a return to civil interactions between both sides. The bodycam has been found to be useful in all manner of situations and places, wherein the officers and inspectors were able to defuse and de-escalate simply by stating their intention to film, and pressing a button. Officers have been protected from verbal abuse or aggression consistently, and the experiences they had gave this research a strongly positive result in terms of acceptance and the use of bodycams by Belgian police. The focus groups further identified that the bodycam was effective in situations where both small and large groups of bystanders were present.

While this research did not focus on public opinion specifically, it did show that earlier research also indicates positive support for bodycam programs. Naturally the bodycam was also responsible for greater transparency on both sides of the camera. Belgian police officers also experienced the added benefit of bodycams due to the fact that most interactions with the public are being filmed already, by the public themselves, and only partially. This lead to many officers using the bodycams when they were being filmed themselves:

“In the field I have noticed several times that there were several people trying to escalate a situation and constantly filming with their own phones; when we came to assist our colleague and stated that we had now activated the bodycam, the public moved on very quickly and the situation was over. This had a very good effect on the crowd.” – Anonymous chief inspector

The bodycam is the ideal tool for indisputable truth

“ (in a situation).. there will be a lot of things said in 30 minutes, and you can simply not record everything from a half an hour conversation. Without bodycam images, you will know the main thread in the situation and what has happened, but now you can, with permission, look back and see who has been verbally aggressive and such. With bodycam footage it is a question of playing the evidence and you will miss nothing” – Anonymous police officer

The officers and inspectors interviewed for this research gave many incidents as examples where the use of bodycams resulted in more and better recollections of incidents with the public. For example the recording of all traffic violations in an intervention that results in a car chase. More examples are the identification of people involved in a situation, the description of a crime scene and better descriptions of damages caused during an incident. Another really specific and needed use is during incidents with fireworks; Belgian officers identified that with bodycam images it is much easier identifying potential suspects, due to all the smoke and poor visibility during an incident. Another chief inspector had this to say about the evidence gathered by his bodycam:

“We always work within the bounds of the law, and so sometimes, for example, I get asked if I have a warrant and I will explain it in a certain way. It is then important that this explanation of my police rights is recorded to protect me against unjustified claims and there will be no discussion afterwards. These are the moments that I consciously use the bodycam for that”- Anonymous chief inspector.

The added value of bodycam footage after an incident

There are two main ways that the Belgian police zones using bodycams also use the footage after an incident takes place. One is the added value of bodycams for training purposes. They are used by police zones to asses whether the police have handled correctly, therefore allowing the footage to be used to train recruits in taking the proper actions. One commissioner highlighted the fact that this can greatly improve the handling of incidents in general, as many officers can now learn from one incident. Furthermore, training is also offered through the debriefing of an incident; bodycam footage is used to discuss and analyse certain actions, such as an arrest or chase, and the results are used to improve future interactions with the public.

“Several times I have looked back at bodycam recordings and have thought, look this footage is interesting (…) Can we show some of these videos in the training sessions to show and ask, what did you think about this situation, what could have been done differently, what not?(…) Or certain videos which show us look this is what happened, and this is what you can improve for the future.” –  Anonymous commissioner.

Another very interesting use case is that bodycam footage is used to communicate with the municipal council and allows for a complete, objective portrayal of a certain event. One of the examples mentioned is of a specific neighbourhood in Belgium where there are general measures in place, such as a temporary restraining order for the public:

“I have sent several bodycam videos to the local government. If we have some issues in a certain neighbourhood and we must execute a restraining order, then with permission of those filmed I will show the mayor look, this is what you read in the press but this is actually how the situation developed in this place when our officers arrived.” – Anonymous commissioner.

Bodycams are the technological companion for all law enforcement organisations

Earlier customer experiences from ZEPCAM about the Belgian police zone Marlow also highlighted the growing positivity surrounding bodycam programs, and their effectiveness as a new police tool. With an average of 100 incidents a month requiring the use of bodycams, they have consistently shown to be effective in de-escalation, transparency, and the effective prosecution of wrongdoers. That the bodycams offer protection, indisputable evidence and transparency was earlier highlighted in an interview with Belgian police from the Minos zone. This trend is also confirmed by the Dutch National Police and local law enforcement organisations. Germany is also experiencing a wave of bodycam solutions; several federal states have implemented bodycams already, with great success. The examples of success stories go on and on, as ZEPCAM users have experienced in many industries. The bodycams capture indisputable evidence and help protect officers from rising aggression. The successes of bodycam solutions in Belgium highlighted in this research, and by their acceptance as police tools all across the world, showcase once again the added value, and necessity, of bodycam solutions for law enforcement worldwide.

“Before (bodycams) we only had discussions. You are constantly engaging in discussion (with the public) and this has to stop at some point. Thanks to the bodycam and the warning of activation you provide a moment for the person being filmed in which they can consider; ‘ok maybe I need to reduce and finish my confrontational discussion’. Mostly, as I see it, many people will become very calm, very fast because they think oh maybe I am not behaving correctly at this moment.” – Anonymous chief inspector.

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