In the wake of recent law enforcement controversies, body cameras are becoming widely adopted among police forces. Their use is beginning to trickle down to security officers, albeit slowly. But with this tool’s increasing popularity, security managers should be aware of the potential liabilities and insurance implications of such devices.
Whenever there is a camera in use in a public setting, the first question the public raises is that of privacy. Indeed, concerns about privacy can turn into an insurance issue if a person recorded by a body camera attempts to file an invasion of privacy suit against the guard’s security firm or the business contracting the guard. This adds a new exposure for security firms.
Body cameras cannot account for poorly trained or otherwise unskilled guards. In these cases, body cameras will increase liability, making it easier for negligent or erroneous acts to be discovered.
Before using body cameras, it is imperative that security managers consult legal counsel and local law enforcement. Use their guidance to determine the legality of body cameras worn by security guards and appropriate protocols and procedures for filming, video storage, and usage. Certain states have laws prohibiting such footage outright.
Security managers should then set up policies and procedures modeled after law enforcement protocols. Determine when and where guards will be recording. Are they going to keep the camera running their entire shift, or are they going to hit record when there is a security stop or transaction? Also, security managers should determine how long and where the company will store recordings and how the firm will use them. The longer the footage is kept the better, but storage space and the cost of that storage may factor into this decision.
To address privacy concerns, guards using the cameras must let members of the public know they are being recorded. All stakeholders must be informed of this decision so that they may take appropriate action. For example, a homeowner’s association should send letters out to their members informing them that security guards will be wearing cameras. The association should also change its bylaws to note that residents cannot sue the homeowner’s association or the security force for invasion of privacy.
When a client requires a contract guard service to use cameras, the contract company should request a hold harmless clause—to insulate the guard company from claims brought due to the use of these cameras. An attorney or legal counsel should assist in drafting this language and they should also consider Third Party Indemnification and Limitation of Liability clauses to further limit liability.
From an insurance perspective, body cameras will likely be a net positive for security professionals. Here are a few key reasons why:
• Guards are less likely to behave badly when their interactions are being recorded.
• Assuming a guard is well trained and acts appropriately, video footage will help insurers assess claims quickly and accurately, possibly reducing the number of frivolous excessive force claims.
• On-the-job footage can assist firms in training new guards. Ongoing training is a crucial component of reducing the severity and frequency of insurance claims. With footage captured from body cameras, security firms can demonstrate to guards both good and bad habits and transactions. This also helps identify patterns that can lead to claims before an unfortunate incident occurs.
As with most advances in security technology, body cameras should be evaluated judiciously before they are implemented. But this technology ultimately has the potential to actually ease some insurance concerns for security firms.
Tory Brownyard is president of Brownyard Group (www.brownyard.com), a program administrator that pioneered liability insurance for security guard firms more than 60 years ago. He can be reached at [email protected] or 800-645-5820.