Using De-Escalation Technology to Reduce Violence in America
As a CEO, I’m most excited by companies that are using technology to make the world a safer place. And remarkably, I’ve been privileged enough to have been involved in two different companies that have been able to combine security and technology to create a better world.
Digital Ally helped law enforcement departments upgrade their incident recording capabilities. At the time, believe it or not, police cars had big, heavy VCR recorders in their trunks that needed to be wired to the dashboards. Digital Ally pioneered the deployment of the digital dashcam in a way that made it accessible and affordable, leading to widespread adoption. This technology is now used in the majority of police cars today.
There was no better feeling than going to sleep at night knowing that I was part of a company that was developing technology to make America safer.
So, naturally, I couldn’t stop there.
We're all familiar with the high-profile incidents of violence in our society: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and other potentially avoidable deaths are causing heartache in our communities. In addition to irrevocable loss, the lack of incident recording is also producing undue polarization in our society, which causes further pain and conflict.
I believe there is a better way forward.
The widespread adoption and success of digital dashcams has led to calls for the adoption of body cams, which are becoming very popular now. In fact, according to the New York Times, in the first year after digital cameras were introduced to a San Bernardino county police force “the number of complaints filed against officers fell by 88% compared with the previous 12 months [and] use of force by officers fell by almost 60% over the same period."
Police officers are not the only ones who would benefit from digital recording – security officers working for Fortune 1000 companies or in public places like shopping malls, schools and hospitals can also benefit from instant video recording. And unlike a wearable body camera, a device-linked camera can add further value to security officers by reducing human error and aligning digital recording with the direction of the device, ensuring the most important footage is captured.
Furthermore, a National Institute of Justice-funded study found that using a variety of non-lethal measures – such as calling for back-up or using a siren, strobe light or laser pointer – can end a confrontation up to 80% of the time.
Imagine if device-linked video recording and all those measures were combined in one tool, making it possible for security officers to de-escalate conflicts more easily and provide reliable incident recording? Impossible you say? Well, Guardian 8 has done it.
We spent the last five years developing the Pro V2, the world’s first deployed Enhanced Non-Lethal (ENL) device. We believe the widespread adoption of the Pro V2 by public and private institutions will make schools, workplaces, healthcare facilities, sporting venues, and public spaces safer and more secure.
Contrary to common belief, police are not the only ones at the forefront of violent conflicts. Private security officers are often the first responders to all types of conflict in public spaces, from schools and hospitals to shopping plazas, sporting arenas and office buildings. In fact, there are nearly 2 million security professionals in the U.S., twice the number of police officers. They are often under-equipped with only a cell phone and flashlight, leading to on-the-job injuries and an annual turnover rate that can be as high as 400%, compared to other professions.
If we want to entrust security professionals with a “duty to protect,” we must give them the right tools to do so. These brave men and women are often putting their lives on the line in the escalating number of conflicts happening in our workplaces, schools and other public spaces here in America. And for every high-profile tragedy, there are thousands of similar violent conflicts occurring every week in the U.S. that are not getting media attention but causing unnecessary pain, suffering and litigation across the nation.
At the same time, hospitals are also becoming an increasingly dangerous place for both patients and medical staff:
Before any conflict gets violent, there’s always an opportunity for de-escalation. Some non-violent supporters would advocate for training security officers in communication and negotiation skills to de-escalate a conflict.
While we support additional training, the problem with only employing that solution is that it leaves too much room for variance. American security officers deserve an intermediate tool that allows them to initiate a standardized protocol for de-escalation that reliably reduces conflict.
A good place to start is audio-video recording, since it instantly changes both parties’ behavior. But security professionals also need access to other methods of de-escalation, including calling for back-up and gaining control of the situation in a non-lethal manner. They also need the option of defending themselves if attacked.
That’s why Guardian 8 developed the Pro V2, an Enhanced Non-Lethal defense device that allows security professionals to deploy a layered defense strategy with just one tool.
The automated nature of the device allows for a standardized response to conflict, and allows security professionals to do their jobs (i.e., de-escalate conflicts and protect citizens) with more ease and less risk – for all parties. Just take a look at some real-life examples of the device in action.
This past year, several hospitals that have purchased and received training on the Pro V2 successfully deployed the device with aggressive individuals, and successfully de-escalated the conflicts without ever resorting to the highest level of response and deploying OC. Neither the medical staff nor patients were harmed or even touched, allowing for more humane care and treatment.
In addition to the moral implications, layered defense of this nature protects businesses and schools from some of the financial impact of violent conflict. Workplace violence costs an estimated $121 billion a year nationwide, and non-fatal assaults alone result in more than 876,000 lost workdays and $16 million in lost wages.
There are also legal ramifications and costs.The average settlements cost for negligence lawsuits are $1 million, the average jury award is $2.1 million, and some with verdicts as high as $40 million. By comparison sexual harassment awards average only $78,000. Think about that. Workplace violence can cost your organization 12 to 513 times what the average sexual harassment claim can, but on which do you spend more time trying to prevent through policies, prevention, and training?
Private institutions already using the Pro V2 have reported that they have been able to thwart potential legal expenses. For example, we received a report that at a large sporting event in Texas, a parking-lot robbery was prevented by security guards who activated their Pro V2 units to record an incident and call for support, while drawing attention to the scene with a strobe and siren. Afterwards, the perpetrators tried to file charges for use of excessive force against the security guards. But because the Pro V2 had the foundations for court-admissible digital evidence (i.e., video and audio), the perpetrators were forced to back down, thus saving the company the time and money associated with a frivolous lawsuit.
Unsurprisingly, the use of Enhanced Non-Lethal engagement with potential assailants has its detractors, particularly those who are unaware of the non-lethal options available today. However, private security professionals have been seeking and asking for an intermediate option for years, a middle path between talking and potentially lethal force. Guardian 8 is pleased to finally meet that need through an easy-to-use, affordable, all-in-one device.
Of course, the challenges don’t stop there. Introducing change to an entire industry isn’t easy. But I also know this is not the first time there’s been slow acceptance to innovation. After all, it took Steve Jobs years to get Apple’s iPhone adopted by the masses. And as he changed the role of computer nerds from outsiders to innovators, we hope to usher in a new era of security where officers will be known as trained and reliable de-escalation specialists.
My hope is that, in five years, our technology is the gold standard in Enhanced Non-Lethal defense. The impact of this technology will be widespread. Parents will be less anxious about their children’s safety when they leave home for school or college. Corporate America can be confident that their employees will be more secure while also potentially reducing their liability. Neighborhood watch groups can patrol their blocks with less risk to themselves and others. Aggressive patients will be treated more humanely and healthcare workers will be better protected. The public at large can have confidence that there are professionals at malls, movie theaters, schools, and hospitals who are trained in reducing conflicts with technology that allows for incident recording, immediate two-way communication for back-up support, and the ability to defend them in a non-lethal manner.
In short, the world will be a safer and better place – for everyone.