Body-Cam inter­view with the Duis­burg Municipality

In the fol­lo­wing inter­view, Thors­ten Bleck­mann, Head of the Muni­ci­pal Field Ser­vice at the Citi­zens’ and Public Order Office in Duis­burg, gives us exci­ting insights into the suc­cessful use of body cams to impro­ve secu­ri­ty and de-escala­ti­on in the city. Learn more about the back­ground, bene­fits and chal­lenges of this inno­va­ti­ve approach.

Sin­ce when have the body cams been in use by the muni­ci­pal ser­vice in Duisburg? 

In April 2022, we star­ted a test deploy­ment with 20 body cams. After eva­lua­ti­on, we have in Octo­ber 2022 final­ly deci­ded to equip all employees with it. 

Logo Duisburg Ordnungsamt

Why did you deci­de to use body cams? 

As the head of the muni­ci­pal field ser­vice, I regu­lar­ly inform mys­elf about legis­la­ti­ve chan­ges that affect the work of my employees. I also pay spe­cial atten­ti­on to pos­si­ble inno­va­tions regar­ding safe­ty equip­ment. After the amend­ment [of the law on public order aut­ho­ri­ties] was pas­sed and the pos­si­bi­li­ty for public order aut­ho­ri­ties to be able to use body cams was crea­ted, I dealt with this topic more inten­si­ve­ly and brought it to the Duis­burg admi­nis­tra­ti­on g. Sin­ce the equip­ment with body cams is also asso­cia­ted with con­sidera­ble cos­ts, I have exch­an­ged infor­ma­ti­on with other com­pa­nies (e.g. with the Deut­sche Bahn), which have alre­a­dy used the body cams. I was par­ti­cu­lar­ly inte­res­ted in how situa­tions can be de-escala­ted through the use of body cams or how they can be pre­ven­ted from escala­ting in the first place. I recei­ved con­sis­t­ent­ly posi­ti­ve feed­back from other com­pa­nies on the sub­ject of body cams. Sub­se­quent­ly, I have obtai­ned appro­pria­te offers from seve­ral pro­vi­ders. Iin a fur­ther step, the body cams were first tes­ted by us, befo­re it went into full equip­ment. 

How was the testphase?

We have noti­ced that the came­ras alre­a­dy have a de-escala­ting effect in many con­ver­sa­ti­ons with citi­zens wit­hout even being tur­ned on. Some­ti­mes we are asked if the came­ra is one and if it has alre­a­dy been tur­ned on. Then we explain the mul­ti-stage pro­ce­du­re for de-escala­ti­on: first, the came­ra is just pre­sent, then the­re is the opti­on of just tur­ning on the dis­play, and only if the situa­ti­on still has­n’t cal­med down and con­ti­nues to esca­la­te do we start a recor­ding. The feed­back I have from employees is con­sis­t­ent­ly posi­ti­ve. It hap­pens, of cour­se, that the came­ra does­n’t impress someone, for exam­p­le, under the influence of drugs or men­tal­ly ins­a­ne. In the case of argu­men­ta­ti­ve peo­p­le who are men­tal­ly clear and know exact­ly what they are doing, the mere pre­sence of the came­ra cau­ses them to mode­ra­te them­sel­ves and the situa­ti­on, even if it has alre­a­dy boi­led up, de-escala­tes ano­ther time.

Did you have any tech­ni­cal pro­blems during the testphase? 

In indi­vi­du­al cases, the­re are came­ras with which the data can­not be down­loa­ded. We also had pro­blems with the bat­te­ries, indi­vi­du­al body cams did not last a who­le shift. In the mean­ti­me the set­tings of the body cams have been chan­ged and the bat­te­ries hold out. So the­re are now and then tech­ni­cal pro­blems, but the sup­port when pro­blems ari­se is good. 

How do peo­p­le in Duis­burg react to the body cams? 

If they react at all, it is posi­ti­ve and inte­res­ted. Nega­ti­ve reac­tions in actions are rare. Most often, a situa­ti­on rela­xes as soon as the came­ra is tur­ned on.  

Duis­burg is the first lar­ge muni­ci­pa­li­ty to deploy the Net­Co Body-Cam. Do you have any tips and advice for other muni­ci­pa­li­ties that are also inte­res­ted in using Body-Cam?

It is important that the employees and later main users are included in the con­side­ra­ti­ons from the begin­ning. Initi­al­ly, the­re were also reser­va­tions about the use of body cams (e.g., fear of sur­veil­lan­ce or recor­ding of one’s own work), but the­se were dis­pel­led by the test par­ti­ci­pan­ts after a short time. Test­ing was car­ri­ed out in a working group of the muni­ci­pal field ser­vice and by some employees of traf­fic moni­to­ring. Now employees feel safer using the body cams.   
Gene­ral­ly, when acqui­ring new tech­no­lo­gy or soft­ware, it is important to be open with exis­ting infor­ma­ti­on and include all stake­hol­ders in the pro­cess. Due to the use of body cams, a decrease in psy­cho­lo­gi­cal and phy­si­cal attacks towards users has been recor­ded in Duis­burg. The­r­e­fo­re, the acqui­si­ti­on in Duis­burg has been wort­hwhile in any case. 

Stadt Duisburg_Body-Cam

Per­so­nal details: 

Thors­ten Bleck­mann is the head of the muni­ci­pal field ser­vice at the Citi­zens’ and Public Order Office in Duis­burg and has made a strong case for the body-cam use at the Duis­burg Public Order Ser­vice after the law on public order aut­ho­ri­ties was amen­ded.  

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