Whenever the discussion of body cameras comes up, the topic most often turns toward one of their common uses: in a law enforcement context. In the United States, for example, many local and federal agencies have rolled out body cameras over the years in an effort to both provide superior visibility into their officers’ behavior and to protect both those people and the citizens they’ve dedicated themselves to serving. Whether or not this actually has any type of appreciable impact remains to be seen, but the cameras themselves are becoming more common all the same.

Hidden Body Camera

This is also true in other places like the United Kingdom, but with a decidedly different slant. Workers at Oadby and Barwell Recycling and Household Waste Centers, for example, were recently subjected to 39 different reported “incidents of aggression” toward council staff in the past 12 months alone. In an effort to help protect these individuals and curb the problem as much as possible, officials took a unique step and followed the lead of their Yankee cousins: They issued body cameras to employees to wear throughout their day.

Incidents of Aggression and Body Cameras: The Situation as It Stands

Leicestershire County Council recently purchased 26 body cameras for staff in the department’s highways delivery and infrastructure planning teams at the cost of about £10,500. As is true with so many of these types of situations, the cameras are visible, and staff members are encouraged to wear them at all times and switch them on immediately in the event of some type of unacceptable behavior.

Right now, the 26 units represent something of a trial program that is still ongoing. It began in August and is expected to run until February of 2019. At that point, a thorough assessment will be conducted to take a closer look at what impact, if any, was actually made. Then, officials will decide whether or not to abandon the program or to buy even more body cameras for employees in the future.

Blake Pain, a cabinet member for the organization, recently said that “the rise of assaults on public sector staff members is to be deplored,” and he indicated that this move was being taken in a direct response to that. He said that while it’s true that incidents of abuse and threats were coming from a very small percentage of the public, they were going to be taken seriously just the same. The cameras are a means of collecting evidence of these types of assaults, putting officials in a far better position to take immediate action moving forward.

It’s also important to note that in the United Kingdom, the Ministry of Justice has recently changed sentencing with regards to instances of abuse and other treatment directed against police officers and paramedics. At this point, it’s unclear whether or not those changes also apply to the hardworking men and women who occupy the nation’s service centers. To his credit, Blake Pain said that he hopes they do, and if they don’t, he’d like to pursue changes in that direction in the not-too-distant future.

Likewise, there is hope that the cameras will also act as something of a deterrent for the staff members themselves. Nobody is saying that they deserve to just “sit there and take it” when they’re facing a dangerous situation. However, the theory is that the body cameras will also prevent them from retaliating in kind, escalating a situation and making a problem even worse. To that end, the cameras could potentially improve the safety of both staff members and members of the public — something that people on both sides of the aisle should be able to support.

Again, it’s not clear whether or not this program is going to be successful. It is, however, one that will hopefully curb a problem that has been allowed to grow far too severe over far too long.