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Body-worn Video: the future of enforcement?

Body-worn videos (BWVs) have become something of a buzzword in the enforcement industry over the last few months. Ever since their introduction into police forces across the country, opinion has been split - are these new pieces of technology a positive step forward for our industry? Or rather, will they prove to be a headache for already stretched Enforcement Agents and compliance officers?

A short history

Before getting into the pros & cons for the enforcement industry, it’s worth taking a short look at the reasons behind the introduction of BWVs. Over in the US, as many things unfortunately do, it comes down to race. A wave of anti-police protests sparked by accusations of police brutality led to the swift introduction of BWVs. The result? In some areas an 88% drop in complaints against police, and a 60% fall in the use of force.

Closer to home, the justification for BWVs comes down to trust. In a study by the Met, an enormous 92% of the public agreed that BWVs increased their perception of trust & accountability in their local police force. By spring 2016, 22,000 BWVs will be in use across the Capital.

The case for

When it comes to the enforcement industry, BWVs address similar issues around trust & accountability. Enforcement Agents, safe in the knowledge that their actions are being recorded and reviewed, are left with no option but to follow the rules to the letter. From the perspective of a debtor, they too can be reassured that any instances of malpractice are indisputably recorded.

There’s also the question of safety. While rare, our own Enforcement Agents have been subjected to violence and abuse on occasion, and BWVs act as not only a deterrent, but a useful tool for guaranteeing justice when our agents are attacked.

The case against

Despite the clear positives, there are still some concerns around the use of BWVs that need to be addressed.

Privacy and data protection are arguably two of the most important phrases in the enforcement industry, and BWVs can pose a threat. Is it fair to record debtors without first getting their permission? What happens if family members or friends are inadvertently caught on camera? What is the solution if, heaven forbid, camera footage should be stolen or leaked on YouTube?

These are questions that keep our own compliance team up at night, and require constant vigilance. At Dukes, we take privacy & data protection incredibly seriously, putting in place clear guidelines over the use of BWVs, covering everything from when to use them, to how long footage is kept for, and who is granted access. These are critical safeguards, and will need to be constantly reviewed as the technology develops.

There are also a number of limitations that need to be addressed from a technological standpoint. It’s not practical to keep cameras running throughout an entire day, so judgements need to be made as and when to turn them off and on. There’s also the question of storing this footage, allocating resources to review it on a regular basis to proactively spot malpractice, and other compliance concerns.

The verdict

What should be made very clear is that both I personally & Dukes as an organisation are big advocates of BWVs. We view the “cons” as challenges that are there overcome, whether that’s through investment in new technology, or the creation of guidelines for Enforcement Agents.

BWVs are already playing a big role at Dukes, reinforcing our ethos of ethical, accountable enforcement. We’re embracing this change, and hope the industry will follow suit.


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