Police Body-Camera Trials in London
As part of the largest trial of its kind in the world, officers from the Metropolitan Police Service are going to start wearing cameras attached to their uniform. It is hoped that not only will the cameras be used as a tool to collect evidence from an incident, but also help boost the conviction rate.
Cameras will be given out to police officers in Camden, before having 500 cameras spread across nine other areas in London, as well: Lewisham, Hillingdon, Havering, Ealing, Croydon, Brent, Bromley, Bexley and Barnet. Firearms officers will also use body cameras in their training, and currently the only issue is trying to work out which part of the uniform the camera would be best attached to as to not interfere with drawing a firearm.
Sir Bernard Hogan-Hewe, Met Commissioner, explained that previous experience of cameras has shown that if an incident is captured on camera, a suspect is more likely to admit guilt. “The speeds up justice, puts offenders behind bars more quickly and protects potential victims.”
The Met has said that officers who are taking part in the trial will be informed that they much follow specific guidelines about when the cameras are to be switched on, and informing people involved in an incident that they are being filmed. The Commissioner explained that the camera will only be rolling when an incident is occurring; the suspect won’t have any say in the matter though the victim can ask for the camera to be switched off.
“I believe [the trial] will also show our officers at their best, dealing with difficult and dangerous situations every day, but it will also provide clearer evidence when it has been alleged that we got things wrong,” said Sir Bernard. “That has to be in both our own and the public’s interest.”
The video from the cameras will be stored and kept on file for a month after filming, unless it is required to be used as evidence.
Bedfordshire Police have also recently announced that they have already had a successful trial using body cameras on their force, and so have rolled out 60 of the devices – that capture sound as well as video – to be used by front-line officers.
The cameras will only be turned on when it is thought that there is an evidence-gathering opportunity, and not for everyday conversations with the public, and while the decision to start recording or not falls to the device wearer, any potential evidential incidents that were not recorded would require explanation in court.
“The benefit of body worn cameras is there for all to see,” said Bedfordshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Nigel Trippett, “and the policy we have requires officers to make sure they capture as much of an incident as possible by recording at the earliest opportunity, and, if it’s possible, inform those present that they are doing so.”
Body cameras could not only prove to make some aspects of policing a little easier, but also could help ease the minds of the public who feel trepidation towards to the police, knowing that incidents are likely to be recorded. And if the Met pilot goes well, then it shouldn’t be long before the plan stretched across the country, making it a safer place for all of us.