Birmingham spy camera police force 'being arrogant'

  • Published
Street scene showing one of the cameras in Birmingham
Image caption,
The cameras went up in areas with a large Muslim population

A police force has been accused of arrogance after an officer refused to answer questions about surveillance cameras erected in parts of Birmingham.

The 218 cameras were put up in parts of east Birmingham with a large Muslim population earlier this year.

Assistant Chief Constable Sharon Rowe of West Midlands Police refused to answer questions at a council hearing.

Steve Jolly, who campaigns against the cameras, said the force was not recognising anyone else's authority.

The force said Ms Rowe did not co-operate because a review by Thames Valley Police was under way.

Anti-terror fund

It is due to be completed towards the end of September and the force said it would discuss the outcomes then.

But Mr Jolly said the force's stance at the city council hearing did not not improve community relations.

He added that he agreed with the criticisms Roger Godsiff, MP for Hall Green, had made about the force. Some cameras are in his constituency.

"I think what they are doing is not recognising anyone else's authority," Mr Jolly said.

"He (Roger Godsiff) said the police are being arrogant and bone-headed and that's spot on.

"They are piling blunder upon blunder and they say they want to improve relations."

A spokesman for Birmingham City Council said it was up to the force as to why Ms Rowe did not answer the relevant questions at the hearing on Monday and read from a pre-written speech.

The cameras were installed in the Washwood Heath and Sparkbrook districts.

The Safer Birmingham Project (SBP), made up of the city council, police and other agencies, was behind the installation of the cameras and the £3.5m funding came from the Terrorism and Allied Matters fund, which is administered by the Association of Chief Police Officers.

It emerged last month that Sara Thornton, Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, who is leading the police review, is a member of the team which provided the funding for the cameras.

In a statement, West Midlands Police said it had been invited to give evidence at the meeting titled Project Champion: Scrutiny Review into ANPR and CCTV Cameras, which was held at Birmingham Town Hall on Monday.

Ms Rowe was advised by Chief Constable Chris Sims not to answer questions relating to the cameras, a spokesman said.

Image caption,
More than 300 people attended a public meeting in Bordesley Green last month

"West Midlands Police recognise the frustrations of the scrutiny committee due to the chief constable not wishing us to answer questions on matters that will be considered and reported on in the Thames Valley review," the force's statement said.

"It is important that we have the fullest possible picture and independent interpretation of what took place and when, to allow us to provide a far more open and meaningful response to our communities' questions and concerns."

Residents said they were angry at a "lack of consultation" over the installation of the cameras and called for meetings with police and the agencies involved.

The force has since acknowledged mistakes had been made with the project.

Last month police said protective hoods and "camera not in use" signs were being fixed to the cameras to reassure residents until a full public consultation, first announced in June, had been carried out.

The force also promised, after a public meeting last month, to remove more than 70 hidden cameras and stop any counter-terrorism involvement.

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