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Health and safety driving take-up of body-worn cameras

NZ Security Magazine, Dec 2017/Jan 2018

Local government organisations are early adopters of BWCs in New ZealandLocal government organisations are early adopters of BWCs in New Zealand

 

Several councils have piloted or rolled-out BWCs for frontline staff. With the Health and Safety at Work Act 2016 driving take-up of the technology for parking wardens, animal welfare officers and ticket inspectors, are we likely to see more security guards sporting vest-mounted cameras?

 

From the numerous media reports of assaults on parking officers to the depiction of the hapless ‘meter reader’ in Hollywood’s School for Scoundrels, verbal and physical assaults on parking attendants is a well-trodden theme in public discourse.

A search on YouTube for ‘parking officer assaulted’ will net you a long list of videos cataloguing the tirades and violence unleashed by spiteful drivers on parking personnel doing their job. These range from the absurd "Angry Old Man Calls Parking Attendant A C Word 13 Times In Less Than 3 Minutes" to the disturbing "Parking Officer takes Violent Kick to the Head - Karate-Kick knocks him out".

Stuff.co.nz reported in February 2015 that the number of incidents of "serious" abuse against parking officers reported to the Christchurch City Council in the previous five years numbered 50, and that half of the 86 physical altercations reported in the previous four years in Auckland had left officers with injuries.

That article cited Service and Food Workers Union organiser Russell Taylor as saying official reports of violence were just the tip of the iceberg and that there were factors that discouraged officers from reporting everyday abuse. Various reports suggest that abuse rates have been on the increase.

The abuses have prompted a number of councils to conduct trials of BWCs in order to ascertain whether they have a positive effect in defusing aggressive behaviour. In many cases, trials have led to full implementation.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2016 has been a big driver. Its focus on employer obligations to ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff, and BWCs are seen by councils as a means of protecting their staff.

 

Councils quick to adopt

Brad Dannefaerd, Managing Director of CERT Systems, a major supplier of BWCs in New Zealand, first came across the cameras when he was a Fisheries Officer with the Ministry of Fisheries.

Since 2008, CERT has sold in excess of 1,500 cameras manufactured by Reveal Media, the market-leading supplier of BWCs in Europe and Asia. CERT has supplied over 40 organisations, including central government agencies, such as the Department of Corrections, and local government, including the Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch City Councils, and many others.

“I quickly discovered that while all the cameras captured evidence, it was the Reveal camera with its forward-facing screen that actually achieved positive behaviour modification of the person I was dealing with,” Brad told NZSM. “Rather than simply recording the subject’s behaviour, the Reveal camera actually deescalated things and often resulted in the subject becoming cooperative.”

The forward-facing screen was a key factor leading to Tauranga City Council’s decision to go with Reveal. From 7 March, its parking officers began wearing the cameras.

 

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According to Stuart Goodman, Team Leader of Tauranga City Council’s Parking and Bylaws area, the cameras were effective in acting as a deterrent. “Over the trial period, parking officers noticed that the cameras had a positive effect on the attitude and demeanour of members of the public and fewer conflicts escalated," he said.

A feature of the camera noted by Mr Goodman was its ability to continually film and overwrite itself by recording in 30 second intervals.

“If the parking officer feels an altercation is escalating, they have the ability to tap the camera so that it continues recording past the 30 seconds. Once tapped, the camera will then retain the previous 30 seconds prior to an incident occurring.

Dunedin City Council followed Tauranga in April, with BWCs deployed on designated parking and animal services officers. The council bought 10 units for staff to be worn when they are on patrol.

Also in April, Wellington City Council rolled out the cameras to around 60 parking officers. This followed an almost 12-month trial period in which officers had found the cameras effective in defusing aggressive behaviour and avoiding further conflict.

Reveal’s cameras come bundled with its award-winning DEMS industry-leading digital evidence management software. Providing a robust trail of evidence, additional licenses can enable DEMS to manage the full range digital evidence (CCTV footage, digital audio files, still images etc) collected by an organisation.

DEMS is widely reputed for its ease of use, having been developed through close partnerships with police forces internationally. The system is protected by AES256 bit encryption, password controlled access levels and an encrypted, full audit trail.

It was a noted feature of the Reveal solution procured by the SPCA for its recording of evidence for animal welfare prosecutions. “It’s great at the end of a shift to be able to simply automatically upload the footage onto DEMS and know it’s secure,” explained Monique Hagedoorn, SPCA’s Service Delivery Coordinator.

 

BWCs and security guards

While the deployment of BWCs for council enforcement staff has clearly gained momentum in New Zealand, uptake remains limited elsewhere, including among central government agencies and within the private security sector.

Despite having previously considered the use of BWCs, NZ Police is yet to commit to the technology. Cameras have been trialed, however, within public transport networks, and NZSM understands that NZ Customs has plans to consider the technology for its frontline staff.

A small number of security companies have trialed the cameras or deploy them in limited circumstances, but New Zealand Security Association CEO Gary Morrison expects the use of body worn cameras to become more prevalent.

“The specification of body worn cameras will to a large extent be driven by our customers as there is greater awareness of their use overseas and increased use within New Zealand, however we are aware that some of our members also have an interest in introducing body worn cameras for certain roles,” he told NZSM.

“The NZSA does not have any formal policy specific to body worn cameras however we support the introduction of any new technology that improves the efficiency or quality of service delivered and provides additional safety for security staff and the public, subject to that technology being proven and utilised with appropriate controls such as training and policy around when, where and how it is used.

According to Gary, the NZSA is working with key industry stakeholders in the development of industry guidelines that provides good practice guidelines for all stakeholders within the security industry.

“We envisage that document will provide the current state of knowledge (best practice) on the safe provision of security services in New Zealand and will specifically cover issues such as the use of body worn cameras,” he said.

Reveal will release its new range (D-Series) of cameras and a new version of DEMS (DEMS 360) early in the new year. These cameras and software will offer some significant additional features over the current RS Series. For more information, visit www.cert.co.nz

 

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