Body cameras tape the way to safety

Kayla-Skeete | Marlin Chronicle
Kayla-Skeete | Marlin Chronicle

By Kat Bishop

Virginia Wesleyan security guards now wear body cameras to increase campus safety. The college employed this new security tactic at the beginning of fall semester.
According to Jerry Mance, the director of security at Virginia Wesleyan, “The purpose of the new body cameras is to assist and help and make sure the campus remain safe.”  The idea behind the body cameras is that once a student/person in an incident realizes they are being recorded, they will adjust their behavior and act appropriately.
The body cameras will not operate in the same way as a parking lot camera in terms of being on 24/7. Security officers will manually turn on the cameras when they are called to an incident.
“They are turned on…that way there’s an accurate record of what’s transpiring,” Mance said. “Situations de-escalate when folks realize they’re being recorded and, therefore, if it’s deescalating, then the campus is becoming safer,” he continued.
Students’ opinions of the body cameras are both favorable and unfavorable. Junior Jaquelyn Gabaldon does not think the cameras are necessary.
“I think that it is a waste of money because it shows that security is more worried about getting kids in trouble and protecting themselves as opposed to keeping us safe and steering us in the right direction,” Gabaldon said.
Students like Gabaldon want to see more useful safety devices such as cameras in the parking lots. Virginia Wesleyan and its security department have looked into putting safety cameras in the parking lots on campus; however, this has not been carried out due to funding issues.
“Cameras cost money…putting together a package for a parking lot would go into the tens of thousands of dollars,” Mance said. “We got seven or eight parking lots here and the outfit of camera for the parking lots would need wireless, wireless components, and again you’re talking big money.”
Virginia Wesleyan is not the first school to use body cameras as a security measure. Police departments across the country are implementing this tactic to help protect the officers as well as ensure professional conduct. According to the Des Moines Register, The Burlington Community School District adopted this technique, and equipped administrators with body cameras to record their interactions with students and parents. The purpose of this move is to increase accountability, Superintendent Pat Coen said.
There are some security officials who disagree with the movement, according to the Register. Ken Trump of the National School Safety and Security Services called it a “substantial overreach” by school leaders, one he would not want to see replicated in other districts.
“They’re not in the dark alleys of local streets on the midnight shift,” Trump said. “They’re in school with children.”
At Virginia Wesleyan, with the fall semester not even midway through, Mance said the body cameras have already been used successfully.
“It was a success, and again the body cameras are very important because it records and cameras don’t lie, so when you have five or six different stories, you break out the camera and you have what you have,” he said.
Virginia Wesleyan security continues to make new efforts to ensure the safety of those on campus at all hours. Along with the LiveSafe app, the body cameras represent security’s utilization of all resources and technologies to maintain and improve campus safety.