Operation Hyperion was a pioneering initiative between Reveal, Hampshire Constabulary and the University of Portsmouth, which evaluated the impact of issuing all police officers on the Isle of Wight (IoW), UK, with body cameras.
Beginning on 1st July 2013, this first of its kind study was based mainly on a series of measures in the year prior to the cameras being issued compared to the same measures in the year after issue, with some impressive results. In particular, the report highlighted the following positive results that personal issue body cameras helped to achieve:
- 7.8% reduction in crime
- 26% increase in converting incidents into crimes (now having video evidence to press charges) – most notably in domestic abuse incidents which saw a 75% increase (which previously would have gone unrecorded as a crime, only as an incident)
- 5% reduction in complaints against officers
- Overwhelming positive public attitude (84-96%) and officer uptake
The release of the report was followed by Hampshire Constabulary committing to a further 500 Reveal body cameras, taking their total over the next year to 2800 – one of the largest deployments of body worn video in the world.
Positive public attitude and officer uptake
There was an overwhelmingly positive (84-96%) public attitude toward police use of body cameras in:
- gathering evidence
- identifying criminals
- increasing convictions
- improving training
- improving disciplinary procedure
A surprising feature of the introduction of BWV cameras in the UK was also the relative absence of officer resistance. Historically, officers tend to be adverse to the introduction of new technologies and equipment. However there was in fact a demand from the officers to implement Reveal body cameras in this case.
Inspector Stephen Goodier, the Hampshire and national lead on body worn video explained:
“What I’ve seen over the last few years is officers are crying out for body-worn video.
“They want it. They want to prove to people that they’re not what is often depicted in the press or the media about how they conduct themselves."
Reduction in reported occurrences
Overall, reported occurrences reduced by 5.6% on IoW with the introduction of Reveal body cameras, which suggests that less criminal acts were attempted. Particularly in regard to assaults on police, this may be explained by the deterring nature of Reveal body cameras.
Number and type of occurrence at years 1 and 2
One explanation for the instances where there was an increase in occurrences is that greater public awareness of the body cameras may have resulted in greater confidence in reporting to the police.
Reduction in reported crime
Overall crime dropped by 7.8% for IoW with the introduction of personal issue Reveal body cameras, compared to the rest of Hampshire where crime only fell by 3%.
Changes in crime type by year
The results suggest that body cameras are particularly effective in preventing crime in public spaces and/or situations where the body cameras are acknowledged by the subjects being recorded.
Notably, threats to kill and assault on officers were reduced dramatically which illustrate how Reveal body cameras can protect frontline police officers.
In the case of domestic assault, the cameras were able to be used as independent witnesses to provide evidence to a court room without needing a testimony or prosecution request from victims. This accounts for the significant increase in reported domestic assault crime.
Increase in occurrence to recorded crime conversion
Occurrences converted into recorded crime
This combination of data demonstrates that although there were less criminal occurrences, a higher percentage of them were converted into crimes, which points to more effective and efficient policing.
Despite the higher occurrence-to-crime conversion rate, overall crime was still down 7.8% less than the previous year.
Successful use in domestic abuse incidents
Most notably, domestic abuse incidents experienced a significant increase in occurrence-to-recorded crime conversion ratio with the introduction of personal issue body cameras on the IoW.
- In the year before Reveal body cameras were issued on IoW, only 3 occurrences went on to be recorded as domestic assault. None of these 3 occurrences resulted in an arrest or charge.
- The equivalent figure in the year after body cameras were introduced rose to 21 recorded domestic assaults. 10 of the domestic assault incidents were supported with body worn video.
- 7 out of the 10 cases supported by body worn video led to arrests, compared to only 1 of the remaining 11 cases which were not supported by body worn video.
- Out of the 7 arrests supported by body worn video, 4 led to sanctioned detections and charges. These were 2 early guilty pleas without trial, 1 guilty plea in court before trial commencement, and a not guilty verdict.
- The 1 case that was not supported by body worn video resulted in community resolution.
The involvement of cameras in convictions for domestic assault in ‘before’ and ‘after’ time periods
There was little information on one of the 3 successful prosecutions other than that the woman victim ‘could remember nothing about it’ due to the effects of alcohol. However, footage from the body cameras was enough in itself to communicate the horrors of the crime to the court and which subsequently resulted in charges.
In the other 2 cases, no victim statements were required and only the footage of the immediate aftermath and officers’ statements were available. Without the footage, these two occurrences may have, historically, gone unrecorded.
Although the number of cases here is small, it does indicate that footage was used in all 3 successful cases without witness statements to obtain ‘criminal sanction’ convictions.
Reduction in complaints against officers
Complaints against officers on IoW were reduced by 15% in the period after personal issue body cameras were introduced, while the equivalent figure for the rest of Hampshire was only a 5%.
The knowledge that body cameras were used during interactions between the police and the public suggests that they had a deterring effect against making a complaint.
This data could also be explained by officers conducting themselves more professionally during interactions and therefore inducing less complaints. However, this would be inconsistent with the officer’s desire to have body worn video in order to demonstrate that “they’re not what is often depicted in the press or the media about how they conduct themselves”.
Changes in INFRA recorded complaints between Time 1 and Time 2
Time 2 BWV use and specification
Time 2 BWV data size
"I think this is now an essential piece of kit and I wouldn’t be without it, it’s impactive [sic] and I think people seeing the evidence is better than hearing it” (front line officer)
“I consider this to be one of the major steps forward in modern-day policing, it is excellent for evidential purposes and a safety net regarding complaints”. (Goodier, 2014)
“It could not be any easier”
“It is a useful tool so why not?! It's a cultural change that takes some getting used to”
“I feel that it is a good way to protect the integrity of both officers and the public”.
Future roll outs of BWV cameras should, as far as possible, be planned so that commencements are aligned with financial and data return periods (normally starting in April each year) so that the sheer level of matching and filtering data is reduced. It
It is also important that all crime data can be outputted according to the date and time of the original incident and not only the date of Home Office returns.