The use of body worn surveillance is increasing, with police officers, council employees and even school staff wearing them. Some argue that this type of camera invades public privacy, whereas others have shown that they are needed to prevent abuse received by staff members.
What are the statistics?
With the news that Aberdeen Council’s use of body cameras is the second highest in Scotland, some people are beginning to question how and when they should be used. Compared to other areas, Aberdeen comes second only to Dundee, which has five more cameras in use, at 67. Other areas have significantly lower numbers, with Edinburgh using 7 and Glasgow not using any. Out of the entire UK, Aberdeen ranks at number 9, whilst statistics show that 46% of councils don’t use them at all.
Why the controversy?
Renate Samson, the chief executive for Big Brother Watch, opposes the use of these cameras. She argues that councils are choosing to use this surveillance equipment when it is not necessary and therefore it has a detrimental effect on the public’s privacy. Whilst it is understandable that cameras may be used to protect council staff, Samson claims the use of the cameras to issue fines for minor misdemeanours such as littering and parking violations is not proportionate.
Why are they worn?
Body worn cameras can be sourced easily, such as from https://www.pinnacleresponse.com/, and they are being increasingly used where staff have to deal with members of the public, often in quite challenging situations. The council argues that its main purpose is to ensure the safety of its staff. The public is made aware before the camera is used, the camera itself is clearly marked with an advisory notice and footage is not held for more than 28 days. Some councils are reporting that the use of the cameras is leading to a reduction in abuse received by staff, which is similar to the effect it has when worn by police officers. This can only be a good thing, therefore.
As with most technology which affects the public, there are arguments for both sides. However, the use of body cameras to protect staff is easily justified and with research showing that this approach seems to be working, it’s no wonder that councils want to continue to use them.