IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Police: body cameras mean we can do our job better

Stop-and-search monitoring group welcomes move that will make officers more accountable

17 March, 2017 — By Koos Couvée

Met Police officer Sergeant Tim Owen wearing a body-worn camera

ALL frontline police officers in Islington have been equipped with body-worn cameras in a move which the Met says will bring speedier justice and improve officers’ accountability.

On Monday, 1,200 police officers working in Camden and Islington – part of the Met’s new Central North Command created following a merger of the two boroughs – were equipped with the devices.

Detective Chief Superintendent Catherine Roper, in charge of the new command, said the technology provided a “whole host of benefits”.

“It’s a really good way of improving our service to the public,” she said. “It improves officers’ ability to do their job, it protects vulnerable victims of crime and it provides much more reliable evidence than describing something in a statement would.

“The reason police officers like it is that they have the ability to prove an offence very quickly. When [evidence] can be recorded and shown by police you are more likely to get an early guilty plea, which means that the efficiency of the criminal justice process [improves].

“Any interaction between the public and police can be filmed, and this protects the police officer and the public – it’s much more transparent.”

Stop-and-search – a controversial police tactic – has come under sustained criticism from campaigners who say black youths are disproportionally targeted. Mobile phone footage showing fractious encounters between officers and young people claiming to be unfairly targeted often surfaces on social media.

A body-worn camera

But from now on officers must record such encounters. While the cameras will not be on during general patrolling duties they must be switched on by officers to record evidence of suspected offences or an encounter on the street.

Katrina Ffrench, chairwoman of Islington Stop-and-Search Community Monitoring Group, welcomed the new technology. “It should give the community some confidence that actions will now be recorded and officers will be accountable,” she said. “We’ll have the visual and audio which will capture the [actions] of officers and of the community.”

“We’re looking at how we can review and analyse the data and feed it into the monitoring mechanism, so that [stop-and-search] is used fairly, proportionally and effectively.”

She added: “I’m hoping it will be a good training tool for the police, reviewing good stops and bad stops, rather than just a scrutiny tool.”

The Met expects officers to record in situations such as when attending a house to arrest someone, in critical incidents, when they use force against persons or property, and in cases of domestic abuse. Officers are expected to announce to those present that video and audio recording is taking place.

Sergeant Tim Owen said the cameras have already been useful in recording evidence from vulnerable victims of robbery and in domestic violence cases where the victims were reluctant to cooperate with police.

The video footage meant that statements from victims were not essential, and led to early guilty pleas, he said.

PC Hugh Winchester added: “People think they can get away with being disrespectful towards police. But as soon as they realise they are being filmed, they will moderate their behaviour.”

Members of the public who wish to view footage of them can request, in writing, to obtain it under freedom of information and data protection laws.

People who feel that were treated incorrectly during a stop and search can contact the monitoring group at islingtonsands@gmail.com

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