Metropolitan Police officers start wearing body cameras

 

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe explains why he believes cameras will help improve policing

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Met Police officers are to start wearing cameras on their uniforms as part of plans to boost transparency and accelerate convictions.

The cameras are designed to capture evidence at crime scenes.

A trial will see 500 devices distributed to officers across 10 London boroughs. Firearm officers will also use them in their training.

But, Jack Hart from The Freedom Association says the move means "everyone is under suspicion".

The pilot scheme comes following criticism of the force over the death of Mark Duggan at the hands of armed officers.

The death of Mr Duggan, 29, in Tottenham, north London, in August 2011, sparked riots in the area that later spread across England.

'Speeds up justice'

Camden Borough is the first to start using the cameras, with further trials in Barnet, Bexley, Bromley, Brent, Croydon, Ealing, Havering, Hillingdon and Lewisham.

Officers will store material from each incident and keep it on file for a month unless it is required for evidential purposes.

These devices will be shared amongst the Met's 31,000 officers.

A spokesman said the force first became involved with body cameras in 2007 when it worked with the College of Policing.

Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said: "Our experience of using cameras already shows that people are more likely to plead guilty when they know we have captured the incident.

"That speeds up justice, puts offenders behind bars more quickly and protects potential victims."

The Scotland Yard chief said video was a "compelling piece of evidence" and would help record situations which were previously "really hard to capture in writing", such as a frightened child at the scene of a domestic violence incident.

He also said the "mere presence of this type of video can often defuse potentially violent situations".

Victim's choice

"I believe it 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's been alleged that we got things wrong," Sir Bernard continued.

"That has to be in both our own and the public's interest."

The force said officers taking part in the pilot must comply with guidelines about when cameras are to be used, but that they will not be permanently switched on and people would be informed if they were being filmed.

The commissioner added: "[We will] only put it on when we know there's a an incident running.

"If the victim wants it to be turned off it will be turned off, but the suspect doesn't have that right."

The debate over the more widespread use of body-worn cameras by British police comes after a jury at the inquest into Mr Duggan's death concluded in January that he had been lawfully killed by Met marksmen - a conclusion which prompted outrage from his family and supporters.

'Undermines trust'

None of the officers involved in the incident in London was wearing body cameras.

However, Mr Hart said: "No police officer will have their body-worn camera on continually because of the sheer amount of data storage required; which will open continual debates about whether or not a camera was deliberately turned off.

"To create a situation where both police officers and the public feel constantly under suspicion is not sensible and undermines trust in all sectors of society."

Some forces, including Hampshire, already use the cameras. They were first used by Devon and Cornwall Police in 2006.

Earlier this week, Bedfordshire Police said 60 body cameras would be used by front-line officers following a successful trial.

 

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 373.

    Isn't it a shame police services can't seem to share information. As reported, body cams have been in use in other UK forces since 2006. So why is an extensive and lengthy trial necessary? Surely a few weeks to sort out administration is all that's necessary?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 342.

    About time, there is no issue, we all have eyes and see people and sometimes memorise them. The anti camera brigade have only one interest and that is to be anti-camera. The footage is only for evidence, not for public viewing and we are used to cameras in shops and petrol stations. It can be erased after a month, it benefits both sides in a nick.

  • rate this
    +46

    Comment number 231.

    As a serving officer I think the cameras are great - so long as they work ! I have had video cameras in my police car for years and (other than the damned thing breaking) they are great. They will protect 99.9% of officers far more than people who 'mistrust' the police realise ! I am all in favour of being on camera - it will show what we have to put up with !!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 163.

    A great idea, which should encourage all parties to behave better. The camera should be on all the time, as you never know when an incident is going to occur.

    However, I still think there is a case for a local volunteer force to patrol with the police as observers.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 154.

    I'm amazed we haven't thought of doing this already. There is significant concern in the community as to some police officers exceeding their powers and this will be an effective safeguard.

    Further, it will make prosecutions so much more efficient. This factor, together with falling crime rates recently reported, perhaps provides an opportunity to reduce the billions spent on the police force?

 

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