Body worn video cameras are set to be rolled out to officers across the Avon and Somerset police force area following a recent pilot, a move welcomed by Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens and Chief Constable Andy Marsh.
Visible cameras are worn by officers as part of their uniform, the body worn technology records both video and audio evidence. The material captured by the cameras can then be used by the Constabulary as evidence to support criminal prosecutions.
Under the Data Protection Act 1998, police forces have a duty to inform a person that their actions are being recorded on body worn cameras for evidence purposes and officers will be obliged to clearly state when they are recording an individual.
PCC Sue Mountstevens said: “I welcome the roll out of body worn cameras and feel employing this new technology will achieve better outcomes, create fewer complaints and give local people more confidence in their policing service. They are crucial in transforming the way the police work, not only acting as a tool to support officers, but also ensuring the local communities of Avon and Somerset are safe and feel safe.
“I have always championed openness and transparency and believe body worn cameras will support this, for example in using the technology to record stop and searches or in the instance where a complaint is made against an officer. While we are mindful of privacy issues, we live in world where people record footage on their cameras daily.”
As the National Police Lead for body worn video, Chief Constable Andy Marsh has been tasked with producing national body worn camera guidance and identifying best practice and future opportunities for the continued use of this video technology.
Chief Constable Andy Marsh said: “I am pleased that we will soon have this new technology to use across Avon and Somerset. I want to equip officers and staff with technology that helps keep them safe and provide a high quality service to the public.
“I have seen Body Worn Video help gather evidence effectively, especially at incidents such as domestic abuse. It can encourage people to be more open in interviews and plead guilty earlier. It can also professionalise the work of the police through openness and transparency. This represents a very significant step forward for the force.”
The Metropolitan Police Service were one of the first UK forces to trial body worn video in 2014 and focused on the impact the devices had on complaints from the public and on stop and search encounters. The cameras' effectiveness in helping the police solve crime and secure convictions was also examined.
Following the trial, a report by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime and the College of Policing found that the cameras helped collect evidence and officers reported resolved issues sooner. The report also found that 92% of the public questioned about the cameras agreed the devices improved police accountability.
Further results of the first ever trial by the College of Policing and Essex Police of body worn video evidence captured by officers attending domestic abuse incidents, found it is likely that the number of people charged following domestic abuse incidents would go up as a result of body worn technology.
Results showed a significantly higher proportion of people charged with an offence when officers wore cameras, compared with other sanctions such as a penalty or community resolution. Where officers wore a camera, 81% of the sanctions issued were charges, compared to 72% when officers did not wear the equipment. Officers who took part in the trial also noted the benefits of capturing the context, comments, emotions and injuries when attending domestic abuse incidents.
Avon and Somerset police force policy with regards to the use of body worn video can be found incorporated in the Policy of Digital Imagery. The Policy for body worn video is however currently in the process of being looked at with a view to make several changes, as the force starts its roll out of the new body worn devices.
Posted on Thursday 17th March 2016