Big Debate: Should all frontline police officers be wearing body cameras?

After what supporters of body-worn cameras claim was a successful trial, they will be rolled out acr

After what supporters of body-worn cameras claim was a successful trial, they will be rolled out across the Met (pic by PA/Metropolitan Police) - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images

This week’s Big Debate asks whether all frontline officers should be wearing body cameras as part of their uniforms.

Stephen Greenhalgh, left, backs body-worn cameras but Emma Carr, right, is not convinced (Emma Carr

Stephen Greenhalgh, left, backs body-worn cameras but Emma Carr, right, is not convinced (Emma Carr pic by Andy Lane) - Credit: Archant

With body-worn cameras set to be harnessed by all frontline Metropolitan Police officers, some fear the move will be unnecessarily intrusive and undermine civil liberties. Opponents of the move say body-worn cameras could support the perception that power favours the police – not the public they are supposed to protect. But backers of the move say it helps hold police officers to account by giving greater transparency to their dealings with the public. This week, we ask: Should all frontline officers wear body cameras on their uniforms?

To share your views simply vote in our poll, leave your comments below or on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Or you can contact Sebastian Murphy-Bates at sebastian.murphy-bates@archant.co.uk and 020 8477 5802, or send a letter in to letters@newhamrecorder.co.uk

Stephen Greenhalgh, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime

London is leading the world in adopting the use of body-worn cameras for all frontline officers.

In the world’s largest trial of body-worn cameras, currently taking place across London, the cameras have proved a big help to police as they fight crime, and are boosting public confidence.

The evidence they collect helps reduce complaints, increases the number of early guilty pleas, and speeds up the justice process.

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The mayor of London and Met commissioner have confirmed plans for all neighbourhood and response officers across the Met to start using the cameras, with around 20,000 due to arrive in London by the end of March 2016.

This will make the technology available to more officers in a single city than anywhere else in the world.

Feedback from officers who have used the cameras shows they are extremely valuable in boosting trust between police and the public.

It has particularly helped when police behaviour is under scrutiny, for example with Stop and Search.

Wherever possible, officers tell the public cameras are in use, and this tends to improve the behaviour of all involved.

In cases where early evidence and victim testimony is critical, such as domestic abuse, the camera footage is also proving invaluable.

Cameras are also collecting more information on the impact of crime on victims, and aid the development and training of officers.

In coming months, we’ll be talking to every London community to explain how the cameras will work and when they can expect to see them being used.

This new technology, made possible with funds raised by the sale of underused police buildings, is essential to build trust, help the police do their jobs, and, crucially, allow the public to hold officers to account.

Emma Carr, Director at Big Brother Watch

If body-worn cameras are implemented properly, they could improve accountability for both the police and the public.

However, there are a number of issues that arise through use of the technology that are of concern and must be clearly addressed by police forces.

Firstly, the use of body-worn cameras has the potential to add further to, at least the perceived notion that, the balance of power is tipped toward the police.

For instance, there have been too many instances in the past where officers have prevented members of the public from filming incidents involving the police, citing nonsense claims that it is illegal for them to do so.

If the police want to gain public support for body-worn cameras, then the right to film must work both ways.

Secondly, no member of the public should be subject to surveillance by body-worn camera without being fully aware it is taking place.

Anyone who is subject to being filmed by a body-worn camera should also be able to access a copyof the footage for themselves.

Thirdly, there is a clear issue of how to keep the thousands of hours of footage that is collected safe.

Police forces need to be clear about what security systems they will be using to prevent officers, employees and even hackers wrongly accessing, sharing or tampering with the footage.

These concerns all amount to the fact that the use of body-worn cameras could risk damaging the relationship between the police and the public.

However, if the technology is used properly and transparently and is subject to tight regulation, then they could indeed be of benefit to both police officers and members of the public.

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