Police head cams bring risks

With news that the Home Office will be providing £3 million to fund a national rollout of head-mounted camera technology, ACPO has expressed concern that the technology isn’t appropriate in all situations.

Aug 9, 2007
By Damian Small

With news that the Home Office will be providing £3 million to fund a national rollout of head-mounted camera technology, ACPO has expressed concern that the technology isn’t appropriate in all situations.

Many forces are now routinely using head cams across the UK, especially in domestic violence situations where video evidence can be useful. But the technology is also being used in other sectors as well, including traffic policing in London.

On the announcement of the extra funding, Home Office Minister Tony McNulty said: “The use of body-worn cameras has the potential to improve significantly the quality of evidence provided by police officers in the drive to reduce crime, the fear of crime and increase the proportion of offenders brought to justice.

“I am delighted to be able to announce £3 million for the police service, which will enable forces to make this valuable technology available to frontline police officers in England and Wales. This Government is committed to tackling violent crime and antisocial behaviour and the assessment so far is that the deployment of this new technology could be very effective in reducing crime, acting as a preventative tool and a means to enhance detections.”

However, Ken Jones, President of ACPO, has commented on the use of the new camera technology: “The introduction of personal digital recording equipment for police officers and staff brings benefits and risks which ACPO will now more fully consider. The interim Home Office guidance and research document will now be subjected to critical review.

“Arguably, the guidance and research (which focused on a small number of geographical areas) underplays some of the risks, especially those which might accompany a more general deployment as opposed to the narrower established roles for this sort of technology. We need to guard against creating an expectation that all police activity ought to be supported by the use of digital recording technology. If we are not careful our relationship with communities may be changed forever.

“Many forces are already experimenting with this technology – independent of the research – and the time is right for us to address this strategically. The availability of new funding allows us to develop a sensible approach to the use of this technology, which delivers benefits to the public, the service and its partners.”

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