A Year of Action for Body Worn Video


2015 is set to be a year of action for the world of body worn video cameras. 2014 saw great developments in the technology but also saw events which has drawn support for body cameras by the public and police, illustrating it as one of the most powerful tools at the disposal of agencies and individuals worldwide in the 21st Century.

More specifically the largest initiative to grow the use of body worn video was announced in December of last year, through President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The initiative is designed to build trust between the public and the police in America at all levels, and how technologies such as body worn video can aid in this mission. The committee, led by Philadelphia Crime Commissioner Charles Ramsey, set to report back to the president by March 2nd 2015.

In the meantime, a significant step towards acceptance of body worn video has been undertaken by the police. In the past body worn video was faced with distrust by officers, seen as device to monitor the police as opposed to help them in their work. However, before and since the high-profile incidents of Eric Garner and Michael Brown that preceded Obamas’ initiative, body worn video has been shown to reduce use-of-force dramatically, and consequently the number of complaints against police.

In the UK Hampshire police who currently have 500 cameras aim to expand that figure to 2,800 in the near future. Hampshire police says the pilot scheme that has been running since 2013 found that the footage taken by officers helped cases progress through the courts quicker, helped resolve complaints against staff whilst also protecting officers.

The European Union backed study named “RECALL” is aimed at assessing how technology such as body cameras can be used to accurately document an event. Albrecht Schmidt, a professor of human interaction at the University of Stuttgart in Germany involved in the project says

“Now, we are making a conscious decision of what to capture on camera. When we wear cameras, we capture much more than we need, and when there is something we need, we always have it.”

The permanent effect of wearable cameras for law enforcement will have a lot to do with how they are used says Lindsay Miller, of the Police Executive Research Forum. She interviewed dozens of police chiefs for a report that would later be cited in the White House’s announcement of funding for body cameras.

The next stage for the world of body worn video for 2015 focuses on improving and developing research, particularly on the ‘use’ of cameras and footage.

“It will really depend,” Miller said, “on what we see in terms of: Are these tapes going out to the media? Are they being used as evidence?” If footage from police-worn body cameras is frequently played on TV or seen online, Miller said, citizens and police will be less likely to ignore a rolling camera. Documentaries such as the BBC’s Panorama show graphically how Reveal cameras capture domestic abuse, opening up the conversation about their use and impact directly on crime with an evidential focus as opposed to entertainment.

During this early stage of the year, users of body worn video can expect to see more uptake in the use of body worn video. Expected benefits include reduction in complaints, building of greater trust, provision of evidence, higher conviction rated, and improved overall conditions of policing in the 21st Century.