It used to be that only an eyewitness could say what happened. Then we added those security cameras that catch grainy footage from bad angles, with no sound. Now? Body cameras. They are becoming increasingly popular with police forces--and now, they have landed firmly in the private sector.
The Wall Street Journal reports on a new trend for body cameras in the private sector. They profile Chris Kneib, who works as a repo man, a business which has plenty of opportunity for conflict and angry people. Kneib says while he's often sued, he's never lost because he has proof that he behaved professionally and appropriately. When a complaint is filed with the police, he simply hands over the video and the case goes away.
Sounds great to you? Lower your risk of lawsuits, and even criminal threats, by having a relatively cheap piece of equipment on your employees? Well, it's not so easy.
The idea of having body cameras make lots of people a bit twitchy. Just think--the boss could see everything you do, all the time. Talk about micromanagement. But, on the other hand, talk about a great defense against a false accusation. Additionally, what great motivation for behaving properly at all times. After all, your employees can't lie to you and say, "Uh, yeah, the customer went crazy for no reason," when the reality is your employee went crazy first.
Even if you're not interested in employing body cameras in your business, you're gonig to start running into them. After, all, just because you don't do it, doesn't mean that a vendor you hire isn't wired up.
Here are 6 things to think about before jumping on the body camera bandwagon.
Is mine a "high risk" industry? While for Mr. Kneib, the risk was often physical, other professions run other types of risks. For instance, an electrician left alone in a house, may want to avoid accusations that he's been going through people's closets. Date and time stamped videos can show that he did exactly what he was supposed to do--come in and fix the wires. But, an employee whose job it is to deliver flowers probably doesn't run as high of a risk, since they don't enter into people's homes. Your bouncer at a bar probably has more of a need than your greeter at Walmart.
Do you trust your employees? If the purpose in using body cameras is to make sure your employees are where they are supposed to be, there are less intrusive ways to do this than recording their every move. Keep in mind that a culture of distrust will not make your employees happy, and unhappy employees can be damaging to your business.
Body cameras only record what they see, not what you see. If you think that a body camera will record everything that is necessary to make your case, think again. Police One reminds us that your eyes can be looking in a different direction than the camera is pointed. You still need professional staff that documents questionable incidents completely. Additionally, they point out, that just because your camera records it, doesn't mean that you saw it either. You may see x, but the camera may only pick up y, because your head was turned.
They can make your customers uncomfortable. While we're not entitled to privacy in public, an overhead security camera seen as vastly different than something on your salesperson's chest. Sometimes, though, it is nice to say to a raging customer, "Hey, just an FYI, I'm videotaping this whole conversation," but that's not always going to work to calm things down.
Are you expecting perfection? If you're going to use these videos to monitor every action that your employees take, you're going to be disappointed to find out that your employees aren't perfect. Do you fire your electrician for rifling through a client's underwear drawer? Yes, every time. Do you fire that same electrician for letting a stream of bad words come out of his mouth when he accidentally smashes his thumb? After all, you're strictly a PG organization. In the past, you'd only hear about it if the client called and complained--with body cameras, you can know about every bad incident. The reality is, your body camera will reveal that your employees are flawed.
They give a false sense of security. Yes, you can have a full video record of a specific incident, but because the cameras only record a part of the scene you can miss a lot. If the body camera is on your employee, you'll see precisely how the customer reacts, but you won't see your employee's facial expressions. You won't see what is going on behind. Additionally, while they provide a record that kept the repo man out of court, they don't physically protect him from an angry car owner. While we'd all like to think no one would be so stupid as to punch a repo man when there is a camera on them, YouTube has enough videos of people who are proud of such behavior to prove that hypothesis wrong.
Will body cameras be helpful in your business? Possibly. Don't jump on the bandwagon without careful thought--and double checking with your attorneys. But keep in mind--when the technician comes in the fix your printer, he may be wearing a body camera, so keep it professional.