Body-Worn Cameras for Police & Security Professionals: Is a Picture Really Worth 1,000 Words?

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Responding to recent deadly incidents such as the shooting of Walter Scott in North Charleston, S.C. by police officer Michael Slager, security expert Michael Shetler warns: body-worn cameras are a valuable tool, but ‘not the fix all’.

Body Worn Camera

Body Worn Camera

With recent deadly incidents such as the shooting death of unarmed Walter Scott in North Charleston, S.C. by police officer Michael Slager, and other tragic police-involved shootings across the nation, it’s thought by many that body-worn cameras will clearly and definitively record every encounter between the police and the public

Not so, says Michael Shetler, CEO of Phoenix, Arizona-based Shetler Security Services. “The immediacy of 24-hour news cycles and footage supplied on social media has led to an almost unquenchable desire for even more video,” Shetler says. “But the public needs to know that in many cases, video captured by law enforcement personnel is evidence that can’t be released immediately, especially when it’s part of an ongoing police investigation. It is not a fix all.”

Shetler also notes that just like the human eye, cameras only see a specific point of view. What they pick up can be interpreted and analyzed in a number of different ways. As an example, a police officer may be called to a bar fight where they begin filming an intoxicated patron who is swinging wildly at other customers. What they don’t record, however, is what led up to this altercation, and what words or actions occurred that prompted the encounter.

“A body camera does not capture emotion – or a police officer’s gut feeling or intuition,” remarks Shetler. “A camera simply does not pick these things up, and it can’t offer 100 percent of the real story. It just shows a picture of what is happening; we can all interpret it differently.”

Shetler, whose company provides global security for companies around the world, does view body-worn cameras as a significant breakthrough both for security professionals and citizens.
“Body-worn cameras are really the natural evolution of the Dash Cams (Dashboard Cameras) that law enforcement professionals have been using for years,” notes Shetler. “In my company, cameras have become an incredibly valuable tool, helping to exonerate security personnel accused of bad behavior, while also providing evidence for us to discipline or suspend employees engaged in inappropriate behavior while on duty.”

“The bottom line is that video is an awesome tool for both the public and security personnel,” Shetler adds. “However, we need to keep in mind that at the end of the day it’s simply a tool and not a quick fix to the many complex social issues we all face in a dangerous climate of crises and threats around the globe.”

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Shetler Security International provides security services for some of the most well-known financial institutions in the United States, private companies, universities and large events. Their staff has over a century of supervisory and executive command level law enforcement experience. This extensive and diversified combination of training, education and experience positions Shetler Security International to conduct expert consultation, evaluation, assessment and implementation of a wide variety of security industry needs, including guard and roving patrol, corporate and executive security, diplomatic and foreign theater security and technology solutions. For more information, please visit: http://www.shetlersecurity.com.

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Terence J. Murnin
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