Camden stop and search group: Met Police must reinstate video footage to ensure public accountability

Uses of stop and search across London have soared from 151,509 in 2018 to 268,432 in 2019. Picture:

Uses of stop and search across London have soared from 151,509 in 2018 to 268,432 in 2019. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

A Camden community safety group has called on the Metropolitan Police to provide greater public accountability over stop and search by reinstating its access to video footage of officers in action.

As the Met has sought to tackle the rise in knife crime, the average number of people 'spun' in Camden has doubled from approximately 400 to 800 per month, according to Camden Stop and Search Monitoring Group (CSSMG).

The voluntary body insists it is supportive of the approach as a means to disrupt criminal activity, but says all searches must be intelligence-led, and not formed off a 'hunch'.

Previously, CSSMG paid a monthly visit to Holborn Police Station to view body-worn footage of officers delivering stop and searches.

In autumn last year, this initiative was halted by the Met over data protection issues.

CSSMG chair John Kilvington said: "The ability to view body-worn camera footage has been the single biggest step forward in police accountability since the formation of the Monitoring Group over 20 years ago.

"Every month for a year members of the community randomly chose to view 10 videos.

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"This gave us a greater insight into the police use of stop and search than anything else we have ever done."

Last year, Met officers used their powers under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1989 to stop and search 45,171 times in Camden, Haringey, Westminster and Barnet.

The figure is a dramatic rise on the 25,138 incidents recorded in 2018, after 10 years of steady decline in use of the controversial power.

John said accountability must be safeguarded to ensure such incidents are held to public scrutiny, which video analysis previously provided.

He continued: "We watched the videos in the presence of senior officers and we were able to ask questions and raise issues.

"Over the year we viewed over 120 different searches.

"We identified just a handful of minor procedural concerns, but what really impressed us was the level of professionalism we witnessed at tense, stressful and possibly dangerous times for the officers concerned.

"All members of the group hope the Met Police quickly resolve the legal issues and reinstate the viewing of body-worn camera footage as a matter of urgency."