Pocket Protectors: The story behind RCL’s body cameras

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Equipping every onboard security guard with an unobtrusive body camera was an ideal solution to a sometimes vexing problem. Still, some tweaks were needed.

“For example, a lot of our security personnel are Filipino females, and they tend to be small in stature,” says Jennifer Love, Royal Caribbean Cruises’ security chief and senior vice president for safety, security, environment, and medical/public health. “We had to do some work on the length of the lens so we didn’t get a picture of your waist on down.”

About a year ago, Love saw that security staff encounters with guests in potentially confrontational situations presented a troubling vulnerability – conflicting accounts of the interaction, particularly when guards were called to and entered a stateroom.

With most of her adult life spent in the FBI, Love knew how to address it. She proposed equipping every RCL onboard security guard with a body camera to record any interaction with a guest.

Love pitched the idea RCL Chairman and CEO Richard Fain, keying on the times – they’re common – when a security guard is called to enter an occupied stateroom.

“We’re going into these situations blind,” she recalls telling Fain. “I told him I don’t know how many times we’re called to staterooms, but it’s a lot of what we do. And I said one of the things that I thought about was if our people had body cameras, it’s a valuable tool.

“And I talked about the advantages of police departments [using body cams] and seeing that the number of allegations of police brutality claims go down, the number of cases goes down, the amounts that they pay out in lawsuits go down, and they get less complaints because people modify their behavior when they realize that they’re being recorded.”

Fain was sold and Love arranged to buy the gear, making RCL the first cruiseline to do so. The security staff has since been trained and each carries a tiny body cam in their breast pocket.

Love says the camera provides two-party mitigation of a contentious encounter between guard and guest, because it also records the guard’s behavior.

“This is what I explain to the security guards: ‘It’s another tool on your tool belt, and another piece of equipment we give you to protect yourself and to protect our guests,’” Love says.

She expects that RCL’s use of body cams will echo the experience of the law enforcement agencies that employ them.

Before using the cams, privacy laws were researched at each of the ports visited by RCL to assure compliance.

“When we start to record people we tell them, ‘You’re about to be recorded,’” Love says. “I’ve looked at some of the films and it’s amazing how quickly people go from being highly agitated to not being highly agitated.”

Before, some incidents were recorded as happenstance. Now they’re standard operating procedure.