Countdown employees favour wearing body cameras after Dunedin attack

Two Countdown employees say wearing body cameras in-store could help prevent aggressive behaviour towards staff.

A police car blocks an entrance to the Dunedin Central Countdown. Source: Getty

By Mildred Armah

This comes after four people were critically injured on Monday, as a 42-year-old man allegedly went on a stabbing rampage with two knives at a Countdown Dunedin store.

The man has since been charged on four counts of attempted murder.

Countdown says the success of the body camera trial at Woolworths Australia will determine whether the cameras will be implemented in its New Zealand stores.

Pashan Irani, a produce assistant at one Countdown branch, told 1 NEWS if customers know they are being watched and recorded, they might be more cautious of how they act towards staff.

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Four people including two Countdown staff were injured in the attack. Source: Breakfast

“I feel like the body cameras might prevent customers from doing and saying things they shouldn't be doing or saying," Irani said.

“They might not be necessary for everyone but maybe just the supervisor or the main checkout operator, so that people are aware they are being recorded and there are consequences to the way they act.

"They can’t just get away with saying or doing things they shouldn’t be saying or doing.”

Irani said although a physical attack like the Dunedin incident is a rare occurrence, other forms of aggression from customers towards staff is not.

“I've seen customers push trollies into my supervisor…and verbal abuse happens all the time. The physical stuff doesn’t happen all the time, but the verbal stuff does.

“We have people kind of just say what they want to say, they don't care. They don't give you that basic level of respect.”

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Kalein Howard told Breakfast of the abuse she endures while doing her job. Source: Breakfast

He says customers feel entitled to disrespect in-store employees because they view their work as low skilled.

“They pretty much say ‘you're a basic level worker, pretty much on minimum wage’ but we have served the community before and after covid-19, we have always been there to provide that basic level of service.

“As an essential service provider, I think we should be heard and respected.”

An online packing assistant at another Countdown branch who preferred to remain anonymous told 1 NEWS body cameras would be a great de-escalation tool.

“I just think they would be a really good idea. I think it's a great de-escalation tool because if a customer is getting aggressive, we'll have the body cameras as proof if anything happens," they said.

“It's a great de-escalation tool. I think it should be implemented.”

A Countdown spokesperson said they'd wait for results from Australia before pushing the case here though.

“We will be closely watching how the body camera trial at Woolworths Australia goes. From there we will see whether this sort of technology could be used in our business to help keep our team safe.

“Over the last year, we’ve seen our people been subjected to more aggression, conflict and abuse than we’ve ever experienced in our business.

“Our people show up to look after our customers and serve communities, and the abuse and aggression they face is upsetting and frankly unacceptable.”