7 benefits of a bodycam audit program
Monitor job performance, identify training needs, highlight otherwise unsung good work done by officers and much more
Sponsored by Frontline Public Safety Solutions
By Rachel Zoch, Police1 BrandFocus Staff
Several states mandate that police officers wear bodycams, and that trend continues to expand. But how are law enforcement agencies using the video they gather?
Only looking at video when there’s a complaint means that most of your video is just taking up storage space in the cloud somewhere – and it makes the bodycams seem like a punitive measure, rather than the important tool for transparency that they are intended to be.
A proactive audit program can help your agency make the most of bodycam video with random reviews to monitor job performance, identify training needs, highlight otherwise unsung good work done by officers and much more.
Here, Police1 talks with Ben Laird, founder and president of Frontline Public Safety Solutions, to learn more about how a qualitative bodycam auditing program that goes beyond simply verifying that a camera is on and working can benefit your agency, officers and citizens.
1. MANAGE RISK AND COMPLY WITH LEGAL MANDATES
It’s no secret that lawsuits are on the rise, and insurers have recognized the value of body-worn cameras in managing risk and liability for police officers and agencies, says Laird. Regular, random audits that provide supervisors with a structured way to review video increases the risk management potential of a bodycam program.
“Insurance companies are saying, hey, this is a proactive approach,” said Laird. “If there is a bad apple, we’re going to find them on a random audit. Or maybe it’s not a bad apple, it’s just someone who needs more training. If you do these audits, your chance to reduce risk and liability is huge.”
Legislatures and city councils across the country have mandated the use of body-worn cameras, and some go as far as to specify what departments should be doing with the video they collect. Bodycam audits can help departments ensure compliance with these rules and regulations, further reducing risk.
2. MONITOR OFFICER PERFORMANCE REGULARLY TO ENSURE DEPARTMENT STANDARDS ARE BEING MET
True BWC audits look for more than just whether the camera was on and functioning properly, says Laird.
“You need a human being who knows the policies to review that video,” he said. “By using our software, they’re going to be able to track if the officers are abiding by our policy or if they’re not.
With Frontline’s BWC Audits software, the auditor, most likely the shift sergeant, must watch the selected bodycam video from start to finish to make sure that the camera stays on the whole time, as well as to evaluate the performance of the officers. Laird recommends that auditors use a department-defined set of questions to look for policy adherence, professionalism and proper procedure, as well as room for improvement or reasons for praise.
“They’re not there just to find the bad,” he said. “They’re going to see some things that will make them cringe a bit, and they’re going to have to go to that officer and conduct some sort of training. But they’re also going to find great work, and now they can document the positive that they see.”
3. EMPOWER OFFICERS TO EXCEL DURING DIFFICULT SITUATIONS
A bodycam audit program also makes it easy to identify patterns where an officer acts with courtesy and professionalism, even in the face of provocation, says Laird.
“They’re going to watch a traffic stop where they didn’t even know that the officer was getting sworn at, yelled at, screamed at, and the officer was very professional during the entire incident,” he said.
Recognizing the professionalism of front-line officers paves the way for much-needed encouragement, which can boost morale and reinforce expectations.
“Retention is tough, so you want to give out compliments when they are due,” said Laird. “People like to know that they’re doing well. If you do a random audit and the officer crushes it, you need to write a quick note saying, ‘Good work.’”
4. PROVIDE VISIBILITY INTO INDIVIDUAL AND TEAM PERFORMANCE
Laird, a former officer, recommends crafting a standard checklist of questions for your department’s auditors so they are all looking for the same things. This way, you can identify where your officers are doing well and where they may need additional training, as well as trends across teams.
“In the dispatch world, there’s a national standard of questions,” he said. “In the police world, they’re behind times, so there’s not a national standard of questions that need to be asked in an audit.”
Audits must be randomized but consistent, he adds, and the BWC Audits software makes both easy by selecting random video clips from each officer in the system and providing alerts to make sure each officer is audited on the schedule set by the department.
Add your department’s checklist so auditors can document as they watch the videos, and you have an easy way to track performance and identify trends or training needs by individual, shift or department.
“You can do it by date range, by individual, by teams, by groups, by department as a whole,” said Laird. “It’s all broken down by whatever data they want.”
5. IDENTIFY FOCUSED TRAINING NEEDS TO INCREASE PRECISION IN COACHING
Whether officers are following policies and law correctly is perhaps the most obvious reason to perform bodycam video audits. Supervisors can identify individual training needs, as well as observe patterns to fill shift-level or department-level gaps. This makes it easier to tailor training efforts to what’s really needed, rather than guessing or falling into the “we’ve always done it this way” trap.
Identifying lapses can also save an officer’s life. Look in particular at officer safety factors when auditing, says Laird.
“In some cases, it’s really specific training that they need to do,” he said. “We’ve also heard that some officers, during these random audits, are putting themselves in jeopardy because they’re not following safety protocols.”
6. CREATE ADDITIONAL PROMOTIONAL PATHS FOR OFFICERS
As noted earlier in this article, a bodycam audit program must include positive feedback as well as constructive criticism. This approach can help the department identify top performers and candidates for promotion, such as an officer whose audit record shows consistent professionalism.
“They can run a report and give me every audit this officer has ever had and tell me the pass/fail rate for that officer’s career,” said Laird.
Assuming an officer is audited twice a month – 24 times a year – that record provides a solid history of that officer’s job performance to justify commendations and promotions.
7. IMPROVE PUBLIC SATISFACTION THROUGH INCREASED TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
In addition to the opportunity to recognize good work by officers, bodycam audits can also provide a means for transparency with community leaders. A performance summary report can show how the department as a whole has performed in various areas, and where there may be room for improvement, you can explain what’s being done to address the issue.
“It’s all about transparency these days,” said Laird. “The chief can say, ‘Hey, not only did we implement body-worn cameras, we have this audit software now, and here’s a performance summary report letting you know our pass/fail rates per question as a department.’”
Auditors can also identify video showing positive or lifesaving interactions to share on social media or with local news outlets (after securing the permission of the citizens involved) to let citizens see for themselves the good work officers are doing in the community.
“When an officer buys somebody a lunch, he doesn’t have his camera on, so that’s just a guy being a good guy,” said Laird. “What you do see on camera is somebody pulls over a traffic stop and there’s a medical situation in the car and he had no idea – the good stuff that they don’t get even the credit for that doesn’t make the media.”
For more information, visit Frontline Public Safety Solutions.