Policy, design and use of police-worn bodycams


Tjerk TIman

In the Netherlands, police-worn bodycameras have been tested and deployed since 2009. Their introduction followed after allegedly positive results of bodycamera practices in the UK. Although a bodycamera is single-purpose in the sense of functionality (to record the moving image), its places and types of use are multiple. This paper investigates the body camera in context of surveillance practices in Dutch nightlife districts, being a part of a larger research project investigating surveillance in urban nightscapes. This paper aims to understand which meanings and practices of use of the bodycamera are articulated and how the bodycamera alters surveillance practices in these nightlife districts. What does this new surveillance artefact do in use practice and how did it come into being in the particular way it is now? To answer these questions, I will focus on three groups of actors that are involved in the development and use of bodycameras in the Netherlands, being policymakers, designers and police officers.
The bodycamera as a tool in nightlife surveillance is still in a test-phase in the Netherlands. Therefore, it provides an opportunity to investigate this new artefact during its development and introduction. For designers, this test-phase is important because might bring to light technical implications (e.g. questions of robustness, image quality or usability) that can be fed back into the design process. However, when taking a broader perspective, the body camera will also alter the socio-technical landscape once it is introduced and used in nightlife districts. STS scholars have stated that new technologies affect existing networks of technologies and humans. The new technological artefact, in this case the body camera, is entangled in a web of other artefacts, systems and decisions. Rather than interpreting body cameras as merely extra tools for police-officers, here the bodycamera in conjunction with the police officer is interpreted as a hybrid. This means that the combination of the two creates a certain typical configuration of action capabilities and a specific delegation of responsibilities (e.g. Latour, 1992, & Akrich, 1992). The added value of the notion of the hybrid is that allows for an analysis of responsibilities that lie neither fully with the user (e.g. the police officer) nor the artefact (the bodycamera) – it lies in the combination of these two.
Concerning the question how to analyse these responsibilities, I will use the concept of script. This concept argues that designers of (technological) artefacts inscribe their meaning in technological devices and thereby communicate to the user what it should do, or how to interact with it (Akrich, 1992). How users actually interact with the technology once in practice often differs from what designers or engineers inscribed in these technologies when designing them. One of the concepts that provides a heuristic tool to investigate these 'alternative' scripts is that of multiple users (see Oudshoorn, 2012). Turning to surveillance and the network of human and nonhumans that are responsible for surveillance in the nightscape, I question which forms of surveillance are being articulated by three different users: policymakers, designers and police officers. This can shed light on how articulation of surveillance actually takes place. In the next section the methods of research are described, in which the steps are explained to unravel the introduction of the body camera in the Netherlands.
Bodycameras are mobile cameras, and this mobility introduces a different notion of a 'surveillance' camera in public space than the static, and literally top-down, CCTV cameras that can be found in urban areas. Via the method of 'following-the-actor' (Latour, 1996), it became apparent that body cameras were used in an experimental manner (e.g. as a pilot project) in Dutch nightscapes (Timan & Oudshoorn, 2012). While quantitative research has been done in terms of performance of this bodycamera (see f.i. Ham et al., 2010), this paper aims to enrich this research by providing an in-depth qualitative analysis.
I have followed one particular type of bodycam; the Zepcam. This bodycamera system was developed in 2009 by the Dutch company Zepcam based. The bodycam was developed as a wearable camera system for law enforcement. This can be for instance forensic research or surveillance. Whereas Zepcam started in the high-end extreme sports cameras, the Dutch government asked them in 2009 to develop their technology for a different market; that of security. In 2012, Zepcam holds 80% of the bodycam market in the Netherlands. Recent developments with respect to the technology point to the implementation of live-stream capabilities for these cameras.
Via a multi-sited case study (see e.g. Hine, 2007), I investigated the network around the development of the Dutch bodycam. I have looked into three 'phases' of the trajectory of technology development: policy, design and use, both separately and in an integrated manner. Via interviews, observations, document analysis and script analysis I have tried to capture multiple perspectives and meanings regarding the bodycam.
In order to assess policy around the bodycam, I have looked at internal documents circulating amongst Dutch police forces concerning bodycam use. Also, I draw from two interviews with policymakers who were involved in setting up the first experiment of bodycamera use in the Netherlands.
Concerning design, I have interviewed bodycamera designers and engineers, as well as police officers in charge of developing the bodycamera project that played a significant role in development of this particular bodycam in terms of user requirements and testing. Moreover, an artefact analysis has been done via the methods of script analysis (Akrich, 1992) to see how certain requirements are inscribed into the artefact by designers of the Zepcam bodycam.
Finally, by turning to use practices of the bodycam via interviews and observations in the night, I captured different meanings and practices of use that emerged once the bodycamera was in use. Interviews and observations were held with bodycam users in several city centres in the Netherlands.Concerning the observations, I was also allowed to be present at briefings, take field notes, and be a part of surveillance teams during the night.
The bodycamera fits in a larger perspective of surveillance measures that consists of multiple actors and technologies (the surveillant assemblage - Haggerty & Ericson, 2000) and will be analysed as such in the conclusions , in which the bodycamera/police officer- configuration is interpreted as a new hybrid that changes current notions of visuals surveillance that, in light of mobile media and networks, seems like a strange anachronisms, or transitional technology in a otherwise rapidly changing surveillance landscape.

Keywords: policy, design, surveillance, bodycamera, interviews.