Video in the workplace, in general

Harvard Business Review has a thoughtful post regarding not just police body cameras, but video surveillance of the workplace in general.

perhaps the real upside of surveillance is the potential to spot and reward good work, not to deter bad conduct.

at UPS, which has sensors in its trucks to track workers’ every move and reduce delivery times, the master agreement with the Teamsters prohibits management from using the data to discharge employees.

More organizations — including police departments — should explore ways of making employee surveillance constructive rather than punitive.

This is one of the issues that will be worked out, hopefully to the benefit of everyone involved.  As has been repeatedly pointed out, there are a lot of policies that will need to be developed for this to become a positive all the way around.

  • When are cameras turned on and off
  • Who turns them on and off, and how
  • What happens to the video (both immediately and long term)
  • What kind of discipline enforces use of the cameras
  • How, when, and by whom the video may be accessed (keeping in mind the public’s right to see what their officers are up to).
  • How long the video is stored
  • Where the video is stored
  • How the privacy of minors/bystanders/accused is protected (if a cop goes into a person’s home or vehicle, that is not public space, so there should be some right to privacy).  I would think that it wouldn’t be hard for the companies selling the camera systems to develop software that would blur out all the faces on review, with faces only showing when viewed in court as evidence.
  • Policies for review of the videos for police internal use – who does the reviews, how often or how much police work is reviewed, what happens as a result of the reviews – this is one of the main themes of the referenced post.
  • Policies for review of the videos as evidence of crimes.  What I mean here, is in a context other than the crimes being responded to at the time.  In other words, say police respond to a person being attacked in their home.  They go in, take out the intruder, all is well.  Then on review of the tape they notice a marijuana plant growing in the home of the victim.  Should they be allowed to get a warrant and go back in and arrest the victim?  Something to consider.

Just think of the potential for the reviews.  Maybe the department can get volunteers from human rights organizations to do some reviews and write up what they see, and what improvements they would suggest.  Maybe volunteers just from the community.  Or from university criminal justice programs.  Neighborhood watch groups.  Union committees.  What groups have a vested interest, and how could their feedback be used?  Think of the varying viewpoints, what all the different people would see differently.

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