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Camden police begin ‘one of world’s biggest’ body-worn video camera trials

Camden Borough Commander C.S. B.J. Harrington with one of the new police video cameras. Picture: Polly Hancock Camden Borough Commander C.S. B.J. Harrington with one of the new police video cameras. Picture: Polly Hancock

Thursday, May 8, 2014
4:00 PM

Camden residents can expect to be filmed any time they have a “notable interaction” with the police from today (Thursday) as the borough’s officers take part in one of the world’s biggest trials of body-worn cameras.

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Police in Camden will join officers from nine other boroughs across London in being equipped with high-definition video cameras in a move they hope will “increase transparency”, “give speedier justice” and “reduce complaints made against them”.

About 500 body-mounted cameras - up to 80 in Camden - will be rolled out as part of a one year trial, costing £315,000.

Officers are being instructed to start recording “any time they would normally make a pocket notebook entry”, with all footage uploaded to a cloud storage database at the end of each day.

Camden borough commander Ch Supt BJ Harrington said his officers “were eager to get their hands on them”.

“It gives our officers better evidence and should help increase convictions,” he said.

“We understand there’s a balance to be struck here with human rights and privacy, which is why they’re not recording all the time.

“But where we are using executive powers, where we’re dealing with any public confrontation or use of force, or a stop and search, then the cameras will be turned on.”

Members of the public have been assured they will be notified if they are being filmed by officers.

They can also request that the officer turn on the camera.

But some campaigners have complained the power offivers have to turn the cameras on and off won’t provide the transparancy promised.

“We looked at the American model which has officers using the device at every single public interaction,” said Constable Bollingbroke, the Met’s lead for body-warn cameras.

“That policy severely reduced the amount of contact between the community and the police.

“But if officers don’t turn them on during a note-worthy incident, there will be a record of that.

“It’s also worth pointing out this is a completely random trial - we haven’t cherry-picked the officers involved.”

Unless of evidence value, all footage will be stored for a maximum of 31 days.

Some 230 body-worn cameras have already been in use across the Met in locally funded schemes, but this represents the largest study ever conducted for the force.

Based on other trials elsewhere in the UK, police say they expect to see a reduction in complaints, an increase in early guilty pleas and an increase in victimless prosecutions - especially in domestic violence, a major issue facing Camden.

Chris Fagg, chair of Gospel Oak Safer Neighbourhoods Citizen Panel, said: “I’m assured that the restraints of use are clear and the safeguards are there.

“I think it will be a great help to reducing anti-social behaviour which is a major concern for many of our residents.

“We’ve already had some of our officers use similar cameras as part of a locally funded initiative and I’ve had no negative feedback.”

Roy Walker, chair of the Camden Safer Neighbourhood Panel, also said he was assured by the safeguards, adding: “As far as I’m concerned, this can only be beneficial.

“It will also help reduce confrontations with police officers.”

Results of the trial will be published in 18 months.

A public meeting discussing the new technology will take place at Camden Town Hall, Judd Street, between 7pm and 9pm on May 28.

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