Another police force is taking the step to roll out body worn cameras to its entire force in an effort to reduce crime and prevent complaints. North Wales Police have announced their decision to issue 1115 body worn cameras to officers who are on duty. The cameras will become standard kit, just like batons and handcuffs (see http://bit.ly/2MyXWjm).
The article caught the eye of our CEO, Claire Sandbrook as she used to holiday in North Wales as a child. As Claire says, “North Wales is an area of contrasts – between stunning rural scenery and busy towns. The decision to implement body worn cameras across this essentially rural part of the UK demonstrates that body worn cameras are not just for the big cities such as London, Birmingham or Manchester. Body worn cameras are working for police forces with different demographics. It follows that this tech will work for High Court Enforcement Officers and enforcement agents working in their names in different parts of England and Wales. The cameras are already recording activity and reducing complaints”.
One part of the story that is worth mentioning is the quote by a spokesperson for Liberty who raises a concern about the intrusion that the cameras could bring to people’s lives. It mentions the cameras record people in their homes and other private spaces. We understand this concern which is particularly relevant to enforcement agents who are after all civil law enforcement agents in England and Wales. But the North Wales Police Commissioner summed it best when he said, “Body worn cameras are the best evidence, you’re not relying on a police officer’s recollections or witness statements in court.”
He is absolutely right on this. For too long what has happened in the field of enforcement is that a complaint or claim has been raised on evidence which is based on recollection. The statutory introduction of body worn cameras will clean this up once and for all and bring a consistent standard to the evidence that is used.
And if we are going down the road of having this tech being worn by enforcement agents, then let’s start out to protect the people who do this difficult job from untrue statements and exaggerations of unfair treatment. We are already using body worn camera footage to manage complaints and ensure we have contemporaneous evidence from the time that the enforcement process commenced. It has been a godsend.
Now what we need is a national standard for the use of body worn cameras including their deployment, and then the storage and retrieval of the recorded material in controlled circumstances which leave no room for ambiguity. We can look to police forces for the policies and procedures to do this so there is no need to re-invent the wheel or mutter about how difficult it is going to be. Instead we need training and support for enforcement agents and their support teams on the use of this tech to ensure it is utilized to encourage positive behaviour and reflects a better public image of the enforcement industry. In our view all of this can be done – and there is no need to delay.
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