Frontline officers should have body worn videos

29 September 2016

Research led by the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology, released today, shows that officer use of body worn videos (BWV) is associated with a 93% reduction in citizen complaints against police.

Che Donald, spokesperson for body worn video for the Police Federation of England and Wales, said the Federation were very supportive of officers having access to body worn video.

“This is a vital tool for officers that provides a valuable layer of both accountability and transparency.

“It can assist officers in everyday duties, including gathering evidence. The footage offers an opportunity to show the professionalism, honesty and integrity of officers by offering a glimpse of activity in an open, transparent and accountable way."

Mr Donald said the study’s results were impressive, and were in line with comments from Federated ranks who said using BWV was particularly useful around frivolous or vexatious complaints.

According to a Welfare Survey done by the Federation earlier this year, just 18% of officers said they have regular access to body worn video, but a third more would like it (33%).

“Sadly, there are a lot of complaints made against police that are not always completely accurate. Our members work hard, coming face to face with difficult people, and BWV can often help to diffuse situations. It is a fantastic tool, but it’s not the overall solution to solving problems with police complaints.”

Body worn video should also not be considered a replacement for officer’s discretion and professional knowledge.

“Officers need to continue to have discretion to deal with situations in a way which best benefits the public, and the video is to complement this, not to stop officers making discretionary calls because of fear they’ll get into trouble.”

While it would be good for all forces to make this equipment available, reducing budgets continue to make this difficult.

Mr Donald noted that a key part of the study’s findings were reliant upon BWV being ‘always on’ and not switched on halfway through an interaction, and said that this would come down to individual force policy – which was something that would need to be considered before any roll-outs occurred.

“Overall, we hope that this study will spur more research into this equipment, and will lead to more forces working to provide all frontline officers with access to body worn video.”