Police, camera, action

A new White Paper examines how forces can get the best from body-worn video.

Aug 5, 2015
By Paul Jacques
L-R: PC Joe Swan, Sgt Thomas Neilson and Sgt Chris Smith

A new White Paper examines how forces can get the best from body-worn video.

Evidence from both sides of the Atlantic to support the use of body-worn video (BWV) cameras by police officers is overwhelming.

Attached to an officer’s uniform, they are capable of recording a ‘point-of-view’ video-on-demand file and their increasing use is being driven by the Home Office and by operational requirements for widespread adoption within the police and other emergency services.

In the most recent study analysing their use, the San Diego Police Department in the US says the use of BWV cameras has led to fewer complaints by residents and less use of force by officers. The report showed that complaints fell 41 per cent, total allegations were reduced by 60 per cent and use of ‘personal body’ force by officers dropped by 47 per cent.

However, a new White Paper by the IT consultancy Mason Advisory – Police, Camera, Action: Getting the best from body-worn video – says while public perception of the usefulness of the technology is influenced by media reports of its use in an officer accountability role (in particular, the community tensions created in the US after several high-profile police shooting incidents), the operational benefits are much wider. There are particular benefits in areas such as staff protection from crime, and automated evidence gathering during an incident – leading to a higher rate of guilty pleas.

In the UK, for instance, research by the University of Portsmouth shows public order and assault crimes have gone down by almost 20 per cent on the Isle of Wight, where all frontline police officers and police community support officers wear BWV cameras as part of Hampshire Constabulary’s Operation Hyperion.

But, says Mason Advisory, these benefits can only be fully realised if the whole BWV deployment is correctly integrated into the wider ICT strategy and infrastructure in use within an organisation: “Many organisations are (for reasons of expediency and cost) deploying the technology in a vertical, standalone capacity that risks undermining the eventual benefits.”

BWV systems are relatively simple on their own and, at a high level, are made up of the components illustrated in Figure 1. However, Mason Advisory says the relative simplicity of a BWV solution is deceptive: “The power of such a system comes from being able to integrate these components into the wider ICT infrastructure to enable the real benefits to be realised.

However, there are some challenges associated with this process, as outlined here.”

Figure 1: Overview of the components of a body-worn video system.

Network transport bandwidth – are the network links between the docking stations and the BWV archive-sized appropriately for transferring large amounts of video data?

•Data must be transferred in a timely manner to make it available for metadata tagging and post-processing. Slow network links can make this a lengthy and perhaps unreliable process;

•Particularly in smaller locations with few on-site users, the network links may be sized for relatively low traffic levels. This can mean that a typical data upload from BWV cameras can take many hours; and

•Link saturation by video transfers may render networks slow or unavailable until transfers complete.

Device security – does the presence of docking stations compromise on-site device security?

•Many organisations prevent the use of universal serial bus (USB) devices on their workstations to prevent memory cards and thumb drives being used as a way for viruses or malware to infect PCs or central systems;

•Some docking stations require a local PC for upload and use a USB connection to achieve this; and

•Even where docking stations can operate independently, they often run internally as cut-down PCs with fully-fledged operating systems that are uncontrolled and unmanaged by the organisation. This represents a maintenance and patching problem for the ICT infrastructure.

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