Can Civilians Use Body Worn Cameras?

Body worn cameras, or BWCs, typically are associated with law enforcement officers.

They’ve been used in the field since the early 2000s and today, several states either have full mandates requiring officers to wear BWCs or there is legislation pending. Since 2021, federal agents have been required to wear body worn cameras as well. But what about civilians? Can a civilian use a body worn camera?

The short answer is, yes. A civilian can use a body camera. However, like many things in life, there are rules, restrictions, and protocols.

Civilian Body Cam Usage and the Law

It is not illegal for a civilian to purchase and wear a body worn camera, but there are laws and restrictions for engaging the device and recording other individuals with it, both via the video and audio functions. It’s important to know the recording laws for the area in which the device is activated as they can and do vary across the country. This often means you need the consent of the person or persons being recorded, and this consent may need to apply to both audio and video recordings.

One-Party Versus All-Party Consent for Recordings

The one-party and all-party consent requirements stem from the legalities of phone recordings, but can also be applied to recordings from a civilian cell phone or body cam.

Depending on the state, it may be illegal to record a private conversation without the consent of all parties. However, if it’s a one-party consent jurisdiction, you can record a conversation without the other person’s (or persons’) consent if you are part of the conversation. The key point here is if you are part of the conversation. If you’re not a participant in the conversation, then you generally need to have consent from all participating parties, whether it’s a private or public space.

Wearing a body worn camera and recording while in a store or other commercial establishment may not be allowed either, but this typically is up to the owner of the business.

The state of California has some specific laws regarding the capture of video and audio recordings of people in public places. According to one California law firm, “the CA Civil Code Section 1708.8 makes it illegal to capture photos, videos, or audio recordings of people ‘engaging in private, personal, or familial activity.’” It’s also a misdemeanor in California to capture images, sounds, or videos for any commercial purpose without consent/contracts.

Exceptions to the Rule

There can be an exception to the consent rule for capturing video and audio with a body worn camera or other recording device. It may be legal to record police, federal agents, and other public officials as they are carrying out their official job duties and responsibilities.

Civilian Uses for Body Worn Cameras

On average, most civilians using body worn cameras choose the device for work-related tasks. The personal body cam is an ideal tool for individuals working for security firms and independent security contractors. Working security at a local rally, event, fundraiser, or concert? A body worn camera is the tool to have. Body worn cameras can also be useful for general contractors when out on the job site, safety auditors, park rangers, and conservation officers out in the field.

Body Worn Camera Data Storage Solutions

From metropolitan law enforcement agencies to rural police departments, security firms, and independent contractors, body worn camera data storage solutions are a priority. Data storage doesn’t have to be complicated or cumbersome. 

At Kustom Signals, we know you want easy, and that’s exactly what we offer. Cloud storage is the best option and our Argus Data Vault delivers unlimited storage. Argus Data Vault is web-based and requires no on-premise equipment for you to maintain, manage, or store. Argus Data Vault also features a mobile version, called Argus Insight, which will allow users to review and show footage straight from their mobile phone.

Argus Data Vault features:

  • An intuitive web-based interface
  • Easy-to-activate live-view feed
  • Real-time tracking
  • Multi-camera synchronized playback
  • Support for cloud-based solutions
  • Comprehensive audit reports

For additional information about our Kustom Signals body worn cameras and Argus Data Vault, please contact us today.

Categories : Kustom News, Urban Policing

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