Body cameras used to deter aggressive behaviour at football matches
In an anonymised* report, Reveal spoke to a UK professional football Police officer, who marshals at inter-city matches, about the role of body cameras in curbing commotion at football matches.
Football security and Police officers often face aggression and hostile situations due to emotional or intoxicated members of the public. Body-worn video has been essential in recording evidence for crimes such as verbal and physical assault; however, it has been proven to calm situations between officers and members of the public.
How many cameras would typically be on a football pitch?
We’ve got about 14 officers within the football unit that work different shifts, and because a lot of them are on response, they’ve got their own body cameras.
So routinely, there are four spotters; two home, two away, and a sergeant and four in a van. And everybody will have body-worn cameras.
How have the body cameras benefitted you?
I think everybody having their own personal body camera has been good.
From the football unit’s point of view, we use it for personal interaction.
If we were stopping to search someone or looking to issue somebody with a dispersal notice or encountered someone previously ejected from the grounds, we would use our body camera to interact with that person to confirm the details. Then we have a record of the person we’ve spoken to, should they give false information.
We have had some excellent results using body cameras. We’ve experienced the potential for disorder at a pub, and officers wearing body cameras have captured some of the people's behaviour. We were able to take them to court off of the back of that evidence.
The best examples are at one of our recent games this season. We’ve had a chap convicted of a public order offence, which was caught on body-worn video. It was the crucial part of the evidence. Then, a couple of seasons ago, we had some potentially violent disorder prevented by officer and body camera presence.
It’s quite impactive if you’re going to court six weeks later; magistrates can actually see the officers' interactions with these individuals and how violent it could’ve got. We got some football banning orders, and then more recently, we’ve also had people identified through body-worn video.
Routinely, when we police football fixtures, any officers that are working on an operation, everyone has their body camera. Before they go out, they all get a briefing from the match commander and me to ensure it’s for personal interaction; it’s not for videoing groups or pubs. Our evidence gathering teams will do that.
Reveal’s body cameras are accompanied by a Digital Evidence Management Solution (DEMS 360). The footage captured by the body cameras is stored, managed, and securely shared internally across Police departments and externally to any relevant legal body be needed in a criminal proceeding.
Body-worn information is downloaded to our systems, they ping me an email, and then I can look at footage retrospectively to ensure that the person’s details are correct.
I could get five or six bits of body-worn [footage] to review. We use it as a tool for intelligence gathering. We also use it as a tool for offences. We haven’t always been successful in getting banning orders on the back of the violations, but we’ve been able to take them to court because of the body camera evidence.
It’s quite impactive if you’re going to court six weeks later, magistrates can actually see the interactions that the officers have with these individuals and how violent it could’ve got. We got some football banning orders, and then more recently we’ve had people identified by body worn video.
Do you think the body cameras have helped to de-escalate situations?
Yes, very much so.
We see that quite a lot because officers, as part of their briefing, have to notify the person that they’re being filmed. Part of the briefing [is] that we tell people ‘you’re on camera, you’re being filmed, moderate your behaviour.’ And it does, and people do.
They realise how impactful it is. I think it all depends on who you’re dealing with. With certain members of the public and certain younger football fans, if you say to them, ‘look, you’ve got to moderate your behaviour, you’re on camera, you’re being videoed,’ they do tend to calm down a little bit, which is good.
How do people generally react when you tell them they’re being filmed?
Normally they’re okay with it.
As long as we’re open and honest about why we’re doing it and transparent by saying, ‘look, we’re videoing you for your safety or my safety. We need to record this. I need to write down some details. I need to confirm all your details are correct, and this body camera will help me do that and identify you at a later stage, should I need it.’ I think if officers follow those types of basic rules around the use of body-worn, it’s a brilliant tool.”
Do you think that the body cameras improve the officer’s safety?
Very much so yes. […] from speaking with our professional standards department, the use of body-worn and turning it on/off does reduce complaints.
I feel a lot safer as an officer being deployed with it, rather than not having it.
* This report was anonymised at the request of the interviewee.