How Police Body Worn Cameras are Changing the Justice System
22,000 body worn cameras have been issued to front line members of the Metropolitan Police force in 2016. It is believed that footage from these cameras will lead to swifter convictions, fewer complaints against the police and lower levels of aggression against police officers.
Revolution in Evidence Gathering
Cameras worn by police officers have been trialled in several parts of the country prior to the Met roll out. These trials point to the cameras being particularly effective at providing evidence in domestic abuse cases. As outlined in this article from the Independent, the use of cameras does away with the need for victims to make statements, which reduces the likelihood of reprisals against the victim.
Reduction in Complaints Against Police
The largest pilot study on body worn cameras has shown that complaints against the police were reduced by 33% in areas where the cameras were used. It is understood that the reason for this is partly because cameras prevent malicious false accusations, but also because officers wearing them are more conscious of their own behaviour.
Police officers who have been equipped with this new technology are given extensive training in the legalities of camera use and how evidence from the new equipment can and cannot be used. See http://www.pinnacleresponse.com/body-cameras-and-the-law/ for an explanation of the guidelines regarding legislation.
How it Works
The body worn camera is small and discreet but with outward facing screens which make it clear to suspects that they are on film. Officers must inform a subject if they are being filmed. Data from footage is fully encrypted and stored on a secure server within police buildings.
Footage cannot be deleted from the cameras and there is a clear audit trail which reveals not only where the data came from, but who has viewed it once it has been uploaded. Encryption ensures that precious evidence or sensitive information cannot be leaked to public forums. Any data which does not pertain to a criminal case or complaint against the police must be automatically deleted after 31 days.
There are big questions to resolve around the release of footage to the public, for instance, in cases where a suspect remains at large. The use of images from body cameras to justify police actions or exonerate officers from accusations of wrongdoing is similarly an area of heated debate.