Body cameras in Local Government

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Sue Brady, London Borough of Merton

Sue Brady is acting CCTV and Parking Enforcement Manager for the London Borough of Merton, and oversees a team of 36 Civil Enforcement Officers (CEOs) who have been equipped with Reveal body cameras for their protection, as well as to gather evidence in the event of an incident taking place to help with prosecutions. 

Before body cameras, CEOs in Merton would report incidents to the police, but without any witnesses or evidence, then cases were often dropped as it became one person’s word against another.

“We had a problem with some CEOs because they felt unsupported in their jobs” explained Sue. “We had officers reporting verbal and physical aggression, verbal abuse is an everyday occurrence for them, but we’ve had officers been spat at and hit with things. It was being unable to prosecute against these things that made them feel unsupported, so we looked to get body worn cameras.

“We looked at a few companies and cameras, but we decided this one was the one that best met our needs.

“Since getting Reveal cameras the problems have been reduced dramatically; even if they have not gone away completely. If you have someone shouting at you when they see the camera recording they have the opportunity to amend their behaviour. Before we had the cameras they would have carried on but now most of the time they do think twice. Because sometimes the public are not very observant and can miss the camera we wear a CCTV badge so as there can be no doubt .We can then record the incidents as evidence to prosecute.

“One example of the cameras success  springs to mind where a member of the public had to pay compensation to one of our officers, thanks to the evidence caught on the camera.  The camera is a 3rd party, non-biased, tamperproof tool, so the officers have found it very helpful.

“Some officers were a bit suspicious of the cameras at first as they got the wrong end of the stick. They thought it was a monitoring system for us to keep check on them. But when they realised we weren’t asking them to record all the time and only when they felt the need for it, the cameras became a tool to help them, and then they felt much more supported.

“Since implementing the cameras it’s been quite positive from the perspective of the public as well as the officers point of view. We’ve had no negative feedback at all. Before we went live we did a few adverts in the local papers and magazines; We also had a piece on the Merton website so that the public were made aware of what was going on. We wanted to be completely transparent with the introduction.

“We’ve created a policy that members of the public can view on our website to find out more information about why the cameras are being used and what will happen to a video if they are in it. We couldn’t find a policy for the use of body cameras in councils back when we started in 2014. Nobody had a policy, so we had to create one. Our policy has since been shared a few times with other councils who are implementing body worn cameras.

“In terms of managing the videos we have DEMS set up across 10 computers. 8 in one office and 2 in another. The officers come in and dock the cameras when they have finished their shift, and if an incident has occurred the team leaders will take a look, potentially burning it to a DVD and passing it on to the Police if required. It’s is a system that is very easy to use.

“Our experience with Reveal has been very positive. We’ve had our cameras upgraded since we started, and any problems we have are addressed quite quickly by the helpdesk.

“My advice for other councils looking to implement body cameras would be to make sure you have a policy. Also, look into your IT department and get them on board early on with the idea and the plan to implement the software as they will be an important part of it.”

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