Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Lancashire Constabulary rolls out force wide use of body cameras

Hampshire Police have been using Body Worn Video since 2008 and began extending its use at the end of July. Lancashire is now rolling out its own BWV. Image: Body Worn Video Steering Group 

Lancashire Constabulary has joined some 20 other UK police forces and begun to roll out its use of body worn video technology, in a bid to capture the best possible evidence and promote public reassurance across the county.

The force has already piloted the scheme using cameras for a small number of operations, but the cameras are now being utilised across the whole force.

Already used by some private companies and by Hampshire Police since 2008, earlier this year, interim findings on the use of Body Worn Video in a test area on the Isle of Wight indicated high levels of public support for their use and benefits to frontline policing.

A total of 150 cameras have been distributed to immediate response teams who will use the equipment to capture evidence of criminal behaviour.

Inspector Mark Baines of Lancashire Police said: “Police forces across the country have already embraced body worn cameras and have identified the potential benefits of their use.

“Here in Lancashire I hope that the wider use of the cameras will promote public reassurance, capture best evidence, prevent harm and deter people from committing crime and anti-social behaviour.

“Whilst offering reassurance to members of the public, safeguarding witnesses and victims, the cameras should also increase officers’ safety.

“The cameras can be used to capture evidence of criminal behaviour that can help to ‘set the scene’ for a court at a later date and reduce reliance on victim evidence, particularly those who may be vulnerable and reluctant to attend court.

“By capturing this evidence, officers should be able to spend less time writing statements and completing paperwork at the station, which in turn will allow them to spend more time patrolling and responding to incidents in the community.

“We will work with the community as wider use of the technology becomes common practice and anybody with concerns about being filmed will be able to discuss this with officers.”

Only specially trained, uniformed officers will wear the cameras and strict guidelines are in place to ensure that the devices are used correctly and the retention of any footage will comply with legislation and national recommendations.

The cameras will not be permanently switched on and members of the public will be informed as soon as practicable that they are being recorded.

Officers will ‘dock’ their cameras at the end of each shift and recordings will be uploaded to a secure server and the memory of the camera is then wiped ready for the next user. The images will be deleted after 30 days unless they are required for evidential purposes.

The use of body worn video will be reviewed after three months with the potential of even more cameras being used across the county.

"In theory, this technology could improve the quantity, quality and independence of the evidence they capture, and increase police transparency," noted Dr Paul Quinton, Principal Research Officer at the University of Portsmouth's Institute of Criminal Justice Studies earlier this year.

However, he did sound a note of caution in his early comments.

"There is, however, relatively limited evidence on BWV's use and effectiveness," he said. "Several local pilots have been carried out that highlight the potential advantages of BWV, but none have provided direct evidence of their impact.

"A recent randomised controlled trial carried out in the US has shown that BWV can reduce police use of force and public complaints. We now need to build the UK evidence base."

It would appear that guidance on the use of BWV by police officers has not been updated since 2007 (PDF Link)

• The Body Worn Video Steering Group is an End User focused community which aims to create debate around the future of Body Worn Video systems in the public and private sectors.

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