Mandatory wearing of body cameras by police is the right thing to do

March 28, 2023

Jochen Sauer, Architect & Engineering Manager at Axis Communications.

If Herbert Reul, Interior Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, has his way, the approximately 18,000 police officers in NRW will soon have to wear bodycams. Reul announced last Thursday in the interior committee of the state parliament that the wearing of body cameras would be mandatory. It could apply as early as April.

He said the wearing requirement was one of the measures following the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old refugee from Senegal in Dortmund in August 2022, an operation in which police officers had bodycams with them but had not switched them on.

Below is a statement from Jochen Sauer, Architect & Engineering Manager at Axis Communications. Jochen Sauer supports mandatory wearing of bodycams by police, but also emphasizes that this only makes sense if the bodycams are deployed and used intelligently.

“Due to the growing number of violent attacks on police, security personnel, rescue workers or train attendants in recent years, the importance of bodycams has increased continuously. The advantages are obvious: on the one hand, they act as a deterrent. They can help de-escalate potentially aggressive situations in order to preventively counteract confrontations. On the other hand, they are an important tool for collecting evidence directly on site. This involves not only evidence against suspects, but also evidence that the user of the camera behaved appropriately.

In the case of the fatal police operation in Dortmund in August 2022, the video footage captured by bodycams could also have served as evidence for the investigation after the incident and provided exoneration at the court hearing. But unfortunately, the cameras were not turned on. According to investigators, when the 16-year-old youth approached the police officers with a knife, the situation became so nervously stressful for the officers within seconds that no one had thought to turn on the bodycams.

This is precisely the crucial point: we at Axis Communications are clearly in favor of wearing bodycams during police operations. However, the use of body-worn cameras only makes sense if the latter are also used smartly. Precisely because police officers can be under stress, it must be possible to use the bodycams as easily as possible and without a great deal of technical effort. The aim must be for officers to have to do as little as possible manually in an emergency and for the technology to take over as much as possible for them. Here, too, the interaction between man and machine must function in such a way that the automation of technical processes brings added value to the human user when carrying out his or her duties.

Bodycams should therefore include, for example, a function for automatically activating video recording. A set pre-alarm recording ensures that the operation, including the event that led to the escalation, is recorded without the camera user having to start the recording manually. For example, a sensor can detect the unlocking of the holster, i.e., the bag for a weapon carried ready to hand, and automatically trigger a recording as a result. In this way, incidents are captured even in stressful situations where there is no time to manually press the record button.”

Info on AXIS Body Worn Solution.

AXIS Body Worn Solution features a rugged camera, docking station and system controls, and can be integrated with other video management systems (VMS) and evidence management systems (EMS) through an open system architecture. The bodycam is lightweight, rugged and easy to use. It can be started and stopped with one touch and buffers up to 90 seconds before powering on. It also has intelligent features to automatically activate recording to ensure an incident is recorded without manual activation:

  • Fall detection automatically triggers video recording when the person with the camera falls.
  • With unlock detection, a sensor detects the unlocking of the holster, and as a result automatically triggers a video recording

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