Bristol Uni security staff to wear body-cameras from Friday
They say it will protect both students and staff
Bristol University has announced that security officers will be wearing body-worn cameras (BWCs) from this Friday in an effort to “protect our community – both students and staff”.
In an email to students, the university said that the roll-out has been moved up “because of the COVID pandemic and the urgent need to keep us all safe, secure and well”.
Earlier in the academic year, students alleged shocking abuses by security staff in halls of residence, with an explosive SU report alleging that security staff have hit them and burst into flats.
Students have also come under intense criticism for breaching Covid-19 restrictions, with two Unite House students receiving police fines earlier this month for organising a mass gathering. The university has told The Bristol Tab that some students may be referred to a Pro-Vice Chancellor for disciplinary action.
A security officer was also assaulted when responding to an incident last term.
The university says that the cameras will be constantly filming, but will begin recording audio only when the officer activates “record mode”.
This will only be used when officers are responding to an incident or come across one on the course of their patrol. Staff will announce that they are recording “where this is practical”.
The university says that the aim of the cameras is to “help ensure appropriate behaviour from security staff when interacting with students and students when interacting with security staff”.
However, conflict of interest concerns have been raised by students, with Pieter, a second year student, telling The Bristol Tab: “Security officers really shouldn’t have the decision whether to start recording or not. It’s hardly going to ensure ‘appropriate behaviour from staff towards students’ because they are going to choose the moments to record footage.”
He added: “If you are going to start recording footage, you can’t be selective because that creates bias. Film everything and then students will be comfortable.”
The footage will be stored on the university internal network, with only “named individuals” having access. It will be deleted after 30 days if it is not being used as evidence.
Bristol Uni has also employed private security staff to assist in enforcing Covid-19 restrictions in halls of residence, and it is unclear whether or not they will also be issued BWCs.
Nat, a first year student in Goldney Hall, wrote an opinion piece for The Bristol Tab earlier this month where she described feeling over-policed. Following news of this announcement, she told The Bristol Tab that she has “lost any bit of remaining hope for a slightly normal life here”.
“Students will now be permanently patrolled over, and rather than attempting to establish a level of trust or relatability between staff and the rest of us, it’s created an even bigger gap that they’re going to find incredibly hard to close.”
In a statement to The Bristol Tab, Professor Sarah Purdy, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience, said: “In order to better protect students, staff and the wider university community our security officers may be wearing body worn cameras when they are patrolling campus and residences.
“This is something that has been under consideration for some time and has been used successfully by other universities.
“We have been working closely with colleagues from Bristol Students’ Union to ensure transparency, openness and understanding around the decision to implement this new technology.
“The equipment may be worn by security officers as a standard part of their uniforms and will help ensure appropriate behaviour in their interactions with students, and vice versa. It will also help us to resolve any disputes quickly and transparently.
“We fully respect the privacy of students, staff and the public and as such the cameras will not be recording and monitoring all activity on a continuous basis.
“We hope this will improve trust and confidence between students and security staff, protecting both from unacceptable behaviour that can arise during stressful situations and help to identify people from outside of the university who are found on our property.
“We know how difficult things are for students at the moment and fully appreciate that the vast majority are complying with national and university guidelines to follow social distancing rules and keep to their living circles.
“The introduction of body worn cameras will help protect these students while providing us with information to quickly resolve issues with the minority who continue to break the rules, particularly around social gatherings.”
Featured image: SWNS