Frontline officers at Bedfordshire Police are now using body- worn video cameras.
The cameras which are worn on the outside of the uniform, are designed to capture sound as well as an accurate and transparent visual account of interactions with the public by response officers where evidence may be required.
Speaking to the T&C, Assistant Chief Constable Nigel Trippett said: “Some members of the community say its like ‘Big Brother’ but other parts of the community say front line officers having a camera is a very good thing. We are trying to find the middle path.
“We surveyed 2,000 members of the general public and over 80% supported the use of cameras. The feedback from people who have been filmed has also been very good.
“I can also assure the public that if the data gathered from situations is not to be used as evidence then it will be destroyed in 31 days.”
Bedfordshire Police policy is that where the use of force, arrests or detentions are anticipated the recording of the event should start at the earliest opportunity. While the decision to record or not record any incident remains with the device user, officers are encouraged to use the cameras at all times, and that failing to record incidents which require evidence will need an explanation from the officer concerned should the case be heard in court.
Inspector Graham Bates added: “These are high quality cameras but we are not really re-inventing the wheel. The technology has all been tried and tested.
“The cameras will also help in terms of domestic violence cases. As soon as you open the door we are now capable of capturing evidence - for example children crying or persons in distress, and by filming we can capture best evidence.” Battery life of the cameras and the finite ability to store vast amounts of data means not every conversation with a member of the public will be recorded. The devices are to be used when there is an evidence gathering opportunity and not for general innocent conversations with the public.
It is also envisaged the clarity of evidence recorded will encourage offenders to plead guilty to offences at an earlier stage, thereby reducing the need for longer court cases, ensuring speedier justice for victims and witnesses.