The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) launched its first large-scale pilot project of body-worn cameras on 8 May, which will determine how best they can be deployed on a wider scale in the future.
Improved evidence and increased transparency have already been achieved thanks to officers wearing the cameras in previous smaller-scale MPS trials. The footage can also demonstrate the professionalism of police officers in the many difficult incidents they face.
Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, said, “Body-worn video will not only help us fight crime and support victims but help the Met to be more accountable.
“Our experience of using cameras already shows that people are more likely to plead guilty when they know we have captured the incident. That speeds up justice, puts offenders behind bars more quickly and protects potential victims.
“Video captures events in a way that can’t be represented on paper in the same detail and it has been shown the mere presence of this type of video can often defuse potentially violent situations without the need for force to be used.
“I believe it will also show our officers at their best, dealing with difficult and dangerous situations every day but it will also provide clearer evidence when its been alleged that we got things wrong. That has to be in both our own and the public’s interest.”
Officers taking part have been issued with strict guidance about when cameras are to be used, which means they will routinely collect evidence in incidents such as domestic abuse and public order but also for potentially contentious interactions such as the use of stop and search.
The cameras will not be permanently switched on to ensure police interactions with the public are not unnecessarily impeded but members of the public will be informed as soon as practical that they are being recorded.
The pilot, thought to be the largest in the world, will see a total of 500 cameras distributed to 10 London boroughs. Firearms officers will also be putting the cameras through their paces in their training environment with a view to later operational deployment.
Two response teams on each borough will wear the cameras as they answer 999 calls during the year-long pilot. The findings will be evaluated by MOPAC and the College of Policing before any decision about a future roll-out is made.
The camera chosen for the pilot, which will be attached to the officer’s body armour, is called the Axon Body Camera manufactured by TSR. Officers will ‘dock’ the camera at the end of each shift and upload the material to a cloud-based server. The images will be deleted after 31 days unless required for evidential purposes.
The National Policing lead for body-worn video, Hampshire Chief Constable Andy Marsh, said, “Body-worn video has the potential to transform policing. The trial by the Met is the first study of its kind in the UK and has the potential to improve the quantity and quality of evidence that officers are able to capture at the scene of a crime, the transparency of their decision-making and the way officers and the public interact.”