Carriage tour company uses body cameras to protect drivers, horses and catch hecklers

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A Charleston carriage tour company is taking an "on-camera" approach to protecting its drivers and horses via body cameras.

Tommy Doyle, the General Manager of Palmetto Carriage Works, said they started the trial and error process in the Spring, and roughly 6 to 8 weeks ago started outfitting a handful of their tour guides with the body cameras.

"Anytime we've called [the police] about heckling and harassment they've asked us if we've had any proof, any video," Doyle said. "Common sense said this is probably a good idea."

Currently the company has six body cameras which are rotated among the 36 drivers who work at Palmetto Carriage Works.

The hope is to have every tour guide equipped with a camera by the summer.

"They'll turn it on when they leave on a tour and turn it off when they come back," Doyle said. "Any problems that they encounter when they're out on tour will be indicated. We'll go through, review it, isolate it, and hold on to it. Some of it we will release."

Two incidents captured by the body cameras on Oct. 13 and Nov. 24 shows a man in a pickup truck "heckling" the driver while giving a tour, according to Doyle.

"I hate your horse, I think it's disrespectful to my road," the man in the video said.

That video was posted to the Charleston Carriage Horse Caretakers and Supporters Facebook page last week.

Doyle believes the same person is involved in the separate incidents.

"A lot of the videos we have, I can't repeat the language that's used," Doyle said. "The heckling we have is constant and it's really unwarranted and rude to people who are visiting our city."

It wasn't a decision Doyle took lightly either, but in light of the controversy surrounding the carriage tour industry, he felt a need to protect his employees.

"We will release atrocious behavior like you saw in that video," Doyle said. "I'm going to release that because I think the community has a right to know that there's people out there that act like that."

Doyle added in order to remain transparent, the company notified the City of Charleston about their new equipment.

A spokesperson for the City of Charleston said Monday, "Under state and local law, whether a business uses cameras for security is typically a private matter to be determined by the company itself."

Palmetto Carriage Works has also decided to inform customers taking a carriage tour about the use of their body cameras.

"I'm all for it," said Sirkka Moore of Boston. "I think it's a good way to keep an eye on if there are any issues. That's really the only way to monitor what's going on."

"What it does is it offers accountability to bad behavior," Doyle said. "We haven't had any push back from the customers, and I was a little concerned about that in the beginning."

As for other carriage tour companies in the city, Old South Carriage Company is considering investing in body cameras, Classic Carriage Works, Charleston Carriage Works and Carolina Polo & Carriage do not outfit their tour guides with body cameras at this time.

The Charleston Animal Society has shared its concerns regarding the carriage tour industry over the last several years. In light of Palmetto Carriage Works utilizing body cameras, CEO Joe Elmore said, "We applaud anything that will help the carriage companies monitor the condition of their horses in the harsh working environment. We hope their next investment will be scales to weigh the loads on the carriages, so they can comply with that part of the law."

Copyright 2017 WCSC. All rights reserved.