Body Cameras on Doormen
Interview with security staff at The Hudson Bar, Belfast
Tell us about your experience of the camera. What would you say to people who are reluctant about their use?
“This is a fantastic tool. Why would you not want to use it? To have something like this to back you up...I mean, take a situation such as when we are dealing with females at night-time and we have all-male staff on, you know how these things can go with drunk girls for example; automatically we switch it on, we go 'listen you're being recorded on CCTV here' and it alters their attitude straight away, it completely changes their behaviour.”
When you're wearing it do you find it modifies your behaviour?
“I would say you're more inclined to speak more professionally. You're under the spotlight. Anything that happens, anything that's recorded; that could end up in court. You have to 'broadcast' yourself a lot better and you're probably aware of that”
“Its a great tool. We always put it on the new staff in particular. Myself and the more experienced door staff here have procedures we want followed, and we know how we want things dealt with so this assists us with training too. We'll have one guy recording the incidents and that can be reviewed after the event”
How is the data managed, do you retain all the footage?
“Well there's no sense in retaining irrelevant stuff, such as maybe people just swearing at you, theres no need. But when there's an issue or a situation escalates, say perhaps someone puts a complaint in and it goes to the manager, well they might say 'he said this or that' ; well we can prove it didn't happen like that as we have it on camera.
People might think it's a bit 'in your face' but at the end of the day, look it's a great tool for us I have to admit. It really does help us do our job, we use it daytime and night-time too. At night-time in particular its fantastic.”
What do you think of the quality of the footage? What about the low light / facial recognition?
“Fan-tastic. It's fantastic quality. Hasn't been an issue. Its clear, it catches what is said. We have most areas sufficiently lit up enough to let the camera do it's job, but we have a dark yard out the back for example, but it does the job out there for us too.”
(The difference with CCTV) “Catch them on CCTV that's fine, but unless they are known to the police it can be difficult to identify who they are, but when you have audio, when you have a close-up, in their face, it's a completely different thing from catching it maybe from a birds eye view from mounted CCTV with no audio. The audio is of huge importance. They can't dispute that.”
What would you say to critics who feel there should be the option to turn audio off and record only video?
“That's insane, why would you want to do that? During an incident? It's not fair on the person being recorded for starters, it's there for their protection as much as ours. Let's say someone turned the audio off then insulted the guy, watched him get wound up and infuriated, then turn it on again? It's not fair on him. The whole point of the audio is to keep it level on both sides. You're just as liable. You know, if you're doing something you don't want to be caught on camera, you shouldn't be doing it in the first place. We're professionals, we have a licence, we're trained. We should be able to stand up to scrutiny and stand by what we said or did.”
Can you think about a specific incident where the camera has really helped you do your job?
“Yes, I can. I've been on my own a couple of times and a situation's got out of hand very quickly. I've been threatened. You know, quite specific threats. There was a situation when I didn't have the camera on when the initial incident kicked off, these three, four guys are sitting there getting abusive and refusing to leave the premises. I went out the back and put the camera on, came back out; 'right, you're being recorded, so what do you have to say to me now?' Straight away they wind it in because they know their faces are being recorded. Lo and behold they move outside without any more trouble. It really does help stop the scuffles and abuse. It helps quite a bit, it backs you up both at the time and after the event if there any complaints.”
What about the PR5, how do you feel about the lack of screen?
“Look it does exactly what it needs to do. It might be said that a screen could show people how they are behaving, but there'll be a point where a certain type of person doesn't care about how they are behaving and in fact it will encourage them to act up for the screen.”
“It's very durable and easy to use. And you can't tamper with it. We don't handle the footage. We pass all the video over to the guy that manages the CCTV system for us here. He's an independent third party that works with the management. They see all the relevant footage and this will be reviewed so they can monitor our performance at work as well.”
What about the public and their reaction to you wearing it?
“Oh a lot of people will be like 'oh here we go, here's Robo-Cop' – but the bottom line is, its a visual deterrent. And the thing is, we get a lot of people in our faces with their mobile phones. They aren't a CCTV device. 'This is, and you're being recorded too' we say. It's a brilliant visual deterrent. Its just a great tool for us.”
“You know, if you use it and use it how you're supposed to use it, it's going to keep you safe and prove that you are doing your job right. (As door staff) You're sober standing there, you're trained to behave in a certain way. They (the public) maybe think they remember the situation differently and try to claim you said this or that, maybe put in a complaint – the video will prove that you did your job properly. Ultimately it backs you up.”