‘Revolutionary’ Reveal body cameras could be used for interviews
Police chiefs in Hampshire have proposed a move to use their frontline officer’s Reveal body cameras to interview suspects at crime scenes.
Hampshire’s chief constable Andy Marsh, who is also the national policing lead for body-worn video, said extending the use of Reveal cameras could lead to “cheaper justice”.
A Hampshire police spokesman confirmed that the Home Office has authorised a trial, which comes as police forces face further reduced budgets in Chancellor George Osborne’s upcoming spending review.
If the trial is successful, interviews recorded on the body cameras would only take place for low-level crimes, such as anti-social behaviour and shoplifting, but the current laws of police practice will have to be updated before the system is officially introduced.
John Apter, Chairman of the Hampshire Police Federation affirmed: “This is about
transparency, that’s for the public and the media to see the transparency of policing, but also to give an element of protection for the officers.
Sadly, there are times when officers have been accused of things; serious matters which have later been shown to be false and malicious. The use of body worn video (BWV) gives protection against such allegations which can be very damaging.
We have seen shocking examples of BWV evidence where our officers have been attacked and the video has helped in the prosecution of the case, often assisting in offenders pleading guilty to their crimes as their irrefutable behaviour is there for all to see. This highlights the reality of policing in a way which has never been seen before. So whilst BWV can’t prevent officers being assaulted, it certainly helps in bringing swift justice for those who commit the assault.
The footage is also good for officers at the scenes of incidents like domestic violence where you see in high definition the impact that violence can have, which is very often never seen by the public or by the judiciary system; it’s a way for the court to look inside that room.
For far too long policing has been stuck in the dark ages because it’s always trying to catch up on using up to date technology. BWV is a great use of simple and accessible technology which, if used properly, and with the support of government in changing legislation, will allow BWV to be used in innovative ways which will be better for the wider criminal justice system.
The public and the media have already seen a glimpse of how the BWV footage helps and the public see the realities of policing which I think will bring more support. There’s lots of reasons to be positive about this. It is providing officers with that extra level of support, making sure we get the best possible evidence and give the public an insight into what officers are faced with on a daily basis.
This is the police getting up with the times, we must use the technology we have to its full potential and if used appropriately it could help reshape the future of policing.”
Dan Nesbitt from Big Brother Watch shared Apter’s enthusiasm for the benefits:
“Body worn cameras represent a unique opportunity to both improve transparency and accountability within the police, whilst also cutting the level of aggression officers receive from members of the public. However, as with all new technologies, it is vital that the cameras are deployed responsibly and in a way that takes into account civil liberties and privacy.
At the moment, we’re recommending that members of the public must be informed when they are being filmed by officers.
Furthermore, studies show that these cameras actively reduce the number of times members of the public are abusive towards officers. Simply put: if they don’t know they are being filmed there will be no change in a person’s behaviour.
The second recommendation is that when the footage is taken off the camera it must be stored securely. It is vital proper safeguards are in place to protect the information when it is stored.
The idea behind body worn cameras is a good one and all the evidence, from both the UK and abroad, shows that it can be an important tool in fighting crime and improving transparency. It is also understandable that in an age of squeezed police budgets, new and innovative ideas will be tested to reduce the burden on officers.
We ask that it is done in an open and transparent way that ensures protection of a citizen's rights and privacy."
Being able to record interviews for low level crimes will save a significant amount of an officer’s time on the beat. By negating the need to transport an offender to a station to record and transcribe their statement, the officer will be able to resolve incidents quicker, making them more efficient and available to police.