Body Cameras 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 Police officers can often face aggression and hostile situations due to emotional or intoxicated members of the public. Body worn video has been essential in calming situations between officers and members of the public, and also in recording video evidence for crimes such as verbal and physical assault.
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, on normal games there are four spotters, two home two away, and a sergeant and four in a van. And everybody will have body worn.”
How have the body cameras benefitted you?
“I think everybody having their own personal body camera has been really good.
“From the football unit’s point of view, we use it for personal interaction.
“If we were stopping to search someone, or if we were looking to issue somebody with a dispersal notice, or encountered someone who was 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 that we’ve spoken to, should they give false details.
“We have had some really good results using body cameras. We’ve had potential disorder at a pub in and officers wearing body cameras have captured some of the behaviour of some of the people. 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 key part of the evidence, and 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 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.
“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 me and the match commander. It’s for personal interactions it’s not for videoing groups or pubs. That will be done by our evidence gathering teams."
Reveal’s body cameras are accompanied by Digital Evidence Management Solution (DEMS), where the footage captured by the body cameras is stored, managed and can be securely shared both internally across Police departments and externally to any relevant legal body, should the footage be needed in a criminal proceeding.
“Body worn information is downloaded to our systems and they ping me an email and then I can look at that retrospectively to ensure that they person’s details are the right ones.
“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 offences, but we’ve been able to take them to court because of the body camera evidence.”
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 they’re talking to 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 impactive 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 for my safety because this is what’s going to happen. We need to record this, I need to write down some details and 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 as well.
“I feel a lot safer as an officer being deployed with it, rather than not having it.”
Body cameras are being used by Police across the country to protect themselves, deter aggression and collect high quality evidence. To learn how body cameras could help your staff please click here.
* This report was anonymised at the request of the interviewee.