Hospitals’ Body Cameras Help Fight Workplace Violence

CoxHealth hospitals’ security guards have started to wear body cams to help monitor workplace violence.

By HFT Staff

CoxHealth was looking to replace its unreliable body-worn camera system with a better solution. They wanted to invest in more durable technology that was easier to activate, easier to offload and would deliver forensic quality recordings. To optimize efficiency, it was important that the solution be compatible with their Genetec video management system. They also wanted a solution that included search tools for quickly locating and reviewing footage of specific incidents. 


NetWatch devised Axis body-worn camera solutions for each of CoxHealth’s six hospitals. Each received an Axis system controller, a docking station and body-worn cameras with Klick Fast MOLLE mounts. To keep the camera count low, NetWatch added an RFID card reader to the system controllers at four locations to read an officer’s fob and automatically assign them a camera for their shift. 

Once the officer docks their camera at end of each shift, the video automatically offloads to the Genetec video management system, and the camera instantly unassigns itself and begins charging to ready it for the next user. 


Because of the forensic-quality video and audio captured by the Axis cameras, CoxHealth has the detailed evidence needed to close cases with more clear-cut evidence. This has led to quick dismissal of frivolous and false complaints against officers and, in one case, an upgraded weapons assault charge for an assailant. With the card reader randomly assigning available cameras on each shift, CoxHealth has minimized the number of cameras needed for each hospital. The recordings have also proved invaluable as training tools, helping officers self-evaluate and improve future responses to incidents of workplace violence and aggression. 

Dealing with escalating aggression  

From humble beginnings in a Springfield residential duplex over a century ago, CoxHealth has grown into Southwest Missouri’s premiere healthcare system. The network extends across 25 counties and includes six hospitals, more than 80 physician clinics, five emergency departments, walk-in clinics and urgent care facilities. In a typical year, the CoxHealth system handles more than 1.4 million clinic visits and 260,000 ER, urgent care, and trauma visits. Its Level 1 trauma center in Springfield alone handles over 80,000 patient visits a year. Like other healthcare facilities across the country, CoxHealth faces workplace violence daily.  

“There’s always been violence in healthcare, especially patient-generated violence,” says Alan Butler, system director for public safety and security at CoxHealth. “But over the last couple of years, we’ve seen the level of violence and aggression escalate exponentially.” 

Capturing every incident live  

In response, CoxHealth decided to equip its public safety and security officers with body worn cameras to help them record incidents, hopefully de-escalate situations and deal with false claims of officer misconduct. But their first experience with the technology was less than successful. The search for a replacement system led the healthcare system to the Axis body worn camera system.  

“The Axis body worn cameras are a lot more durable and user friendly to operate than our previous system,” Butler says. “It’s just a single-button activation.”  

Butler also appreciates the simplicity of offloading the recorded video. When officers come off shift, they just place the camera in an Axis docking station that automatically offloads the video and sends it to the server. The docking station also recharges the camera so it’s ready for the next shift of users in minutes. To ensure they record every incident fully, CoxHealth set up the body-worn cameras with a 30-second prebuffer.  

“Most incidents actually start before the officer has an opportunity to push the activation button,” explains Butler. “This feature allows us to back up and see what happened even as the officer was arriving at the scene.” 

Sharing cameras across shifts  

To maintain round-the-clock coverage, CoxHealth schedules officers in three 8-hour shifts. Rather than permanently assign a specific camera to each officer, which would leave the camera idle two out of three shifts, CoxHealth turned to NetWatch to come up with a more cost-efficient alternative. 

The solution was to add RFID card readers to the system. This allows officers to swipe their fob and have the system controller automatically assign them any of the available cameras in the docking station. It also links the officer’s credentials to the recording for accurate archiving and retrieval.  

Revealing missed details  

Butler says CoxHealth often uses the recordings to counter bogus complaints against its officers. He likens the cameras to a third-person witness who is beyond reproach. Sometimes the cameras reveal more about a situation than initially was apparent.  

Butler told of an assault case at the Springfield hospital. When the video was viewed frame-by-frame, it led CoxHealth to level a more serious charge against the perpetrator.  

“We thought it was a simple case of an individual throwing a punch at an officer,” Butler says. “But when we watched the recording frame by frame, we could clearly see that the individual had inserted a key between his fingers and was attempting to use it as a weapon.” 

A natural complement to surveillance cameras Axis body worn cameras has added another layer of security to CoxHealth, augmenting the hundreds of Axis cameras already deployed throughout its hospitals and clinics.  

For instance, by strategically deploying AXIS P37 Series multi-sensor cameras, CoxHealth achieves greater exterior coverage with fewer cameras and licensing fees. AXIS Q-line pan/tilt/zoom cameras help security capture the license plates of vehicles entering and leaving the campus. 

AXIS M31 Series with their wide fields of view also keep close watch over critical locations, such as waiting areas and hallways with automated medication-dispensing cabinets. 

Providing essential tools to do the job  

CoxHealth is discovering that like their traditionally deployed Axis cameras, their new body-worn cameras from Axis are providing value on multiple levels. 

“Our officers are very possessive of their cameras,” Butler says. “They see them as necessary protection against wrongful claims, but also as tools to help them deescalate confrontations.” 

Officers often review their recordings when preparing their incident reports to accurately note timelines and sequences of events. Supervisors and officers also use the recordings for training and self-evaluation. 

“The training value of the video is priceless,” Butler says. “Once they’ve stepped back from the actual event, the learning value is very high. Most times, the officer self-identifies what they did wrong, and they’ll tell you what they would’ve done differently if they had to do it over again. And that’s the kind of professional growth that keeps everyone safe.” 

March 31, 2022

Topic Area: Information Technology , Safety , Security

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