back to article London cops strap on new body cams

The Metropolitan Police Service has on Monday begun to roll out the 22,000 body-worn video cameras its cops will be using to record their interactions with denizens of the British capital. Introducing the rollout, the Met's Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, said: "Video captures events in a way that can't be represented on …

  1. Hollerithevo

    Optional activation = propaganda

    If the police can choose to record only what they want to record, then they will ensure they record only what helps them and not what hurts them, or at least in their own view (i.e. person being questioned gets a polite question/camera off/person gets thumped/camera back on/person gets polite question).

    Given these stats about violence to the police, and my suggestion of reality above, doesn't it make more sense to have them on all the time?

    1. grizzly

      Re: Optional activation = propaganda

      "will be turned on at the officers' discretion"

      Why bother then? They'll just plead: "I didn't have time to switch my camera on before I shot the deceased 42 times in self-defence your honour". Should automatically record everything at least for the past x number of days - data storage is cheaper than ever.

      Or if that would upset the Police Federation too much, as a compromise could only retain say the last 10 minutes, then cops can choose whether to retain the past 10 mins's footage. Won't have the excuse of "was an emergency and didn't have time guv". As it stands, it's a tool that will cause, not prevent police injustice. Will push the weight of evidence away from the IPC and public, and towards the police.

    2. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Re: Optional activation = propaganda

      OK, down vote magnet coming...

      Some situations are best not filmed. Taking a sample from a rape victim. Picking up the servered head from a motorbike crash. Delivering a death message. Sitting in the paperwork office for 7 hours. Going to the toilet.

      Some situations will lead to a different outcome when filmed. Asking the wife if her husband beats her.

      Some situations are defused by turning a camera on. The IT worker who's had too many Stella and is kicking off in the pub.

      All of the Police officers I know welcome the cameras, their only concern is losing hours of their day to slow IT. Imagine having to edit your entire day on a Windows 2000 era PC (one between seven) and submit evidence (all with handwritten statements in duplicate) for every single job. It would be impractical, and an easy way for a defendant to launch a denial of service attack on the Police if cameras were on full-time.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Optional activation = propaganda

        "Taking a sample from a rape victim"

        Taking a sample of what???

        Whatever it is, I don't think you'r regular body-cam wearing PC gets involved in that.

        1. Adam 52 Silver badge

          Re: Optional activation = propaganda

          "I don't think you'r regular body-cam wearing PC gets involved in that"

          Oh yes they do. And fishing around inside for drugs.

          Forces differ, the Met in particular separates custody side from street side, but most don't.

      2. grizzly

        Re: Optional activation = propaganda

        Sure there can be room for discretion. But it's pointless if the cop is allowed the excuse: "I woz too busy\fraught to switch the cam on m'lud".

        Record everything for the past 10 minutes, then choose whether to retain. Sensitive things like the widow being informed of husband's death, etc don't need to be kept, but the bent copper loses the excuse if he fails to record something the IPCC would have been interested to see.

      3. macjules Silver badge

        Re: Optional activation = propaganda

        Definite up vote from me for that, thanks for the clarification. However should not that sort of evidence, however unpleasant it may be, still be recorded and uploaded to the cloud where it can be deleted at compliance (PACE?) discretion, and not at the officer's whim?

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Optional activation = propaganda

        Some situations are best not filmed. Taking a sample from a rape victim. Picking up the servered head from a motorbike crash. Delivering a death message. Sitting in the paperwork office for 7 hours. Going to the toilet.

        And why not? These cameras are not live uploads to Youtube, they are forensic evidence tools that should not be interfered with, precisely because they preserve ALL the facts in an unbiased way, not the just ones the policeman wants recorded. It's quite OK if at base someone decides not to retain certain parts, but only if that decision is independently reviewed.

        If we allow the police to switch off the camera at will, we should also give the public a shutdown button to preserve balance of evidence, at which point we might as well save the expenditure.

        The camera must be running all the time, with fines if minutes go "missing".

        1. Adam 52 Silver badge

          Re: Optional activation = propaganda

          There are lots of answers to that.

          The first is that victims have a right not to have someone stick a camera into their grief. If you don't accept that, go away and get some life experience.

          Another article on here quotes "never store online what you wouldn't put in the newspaper" or words to that effect. You will lose loads of evidence if cameras are on full time, because people will just clam up.

          And then there's the basic human rights. A PC has the right to go to the toilet without it being filmed and viewed by their boss.

          Oh, and cameras are unbiased evidence? You don't really believe that do you? Centuries of camera trickery and Hollywood films should convince you otherwise.

          Plus you've ignored the other point - anything recorded can be called as evidence, so you can't delete it. And if everything is recorded everything is disclosure, so every single case is going to take multiple times the amount of case preparation. Every interview with the victim, every interview with the witnesses all will have to be edited and anonymised.

          Cameras on when outside by default, yes. But you need to leave the option to turn them off. If you want, add in a requirement to justify to control room why.

          And factor in a minute or two to response times to detach camera from stab vest and attach to jacket every time an officer enters or leaves a building.

          I'll get this in now - these will break just like any other piece of electronics that gets routinely smashed about and soaked in fluids. In 3 years most of the batteries will be on their last legs. You will see missing footage and it likely won't be due to any malicious intent.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Optional activation = propaganda

            "... these will break just like any other piece of electronics that gets routinely smashed about and soaked in fluids." Or tossed on police station roofs.

            These will break when it suits the users to have them broken and it will behoove those who administer this scheme to pay very close attention to how often they break and who they break for.

            Personal experience with police is that _most_ are ok, but there are enough psycho/sociopaths in the organisation (with increasing numbers further up the ranking structure) that accountability and oversight needs to be strict. Instead these people try to get police held to a lesser standard than the general public - and frequently succeed in doing so.

            One of the single largest problems within any police organisation is that calling such individuals out results in the caller being tainted by claims of "grassing people up" and gang-mentality revenge kicking in. Such accusations and attitudes are what you'd find in criminal circles and have no place in law enforcement/peace keeping.

            With any luck "optional activation" will be declared a failure and the things will be on 24*7. For shits and giggles it would be interesting if the things were recording anyway, even when cops thought they'd disabled them. It's amazing what people will say if they think they've shut down recordings (which is why it's always worth carrying _2_ recorders and letting them see you turn one off).

    3. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

      Re: Optional activation = propaganda

      "All the time" includes when they go to the toilet, which could be considered an invasion of privacy. And taste.

      There might also be times when there could be reasonable belief that the camera would be considered intrusive - dealing with bereaved relatives, for example.

      However, if the rule is "If you're on duty, camera is on duty too, unless you can justify turning it off", I think that would reasonably cover things.

      I'm also unsure how much the reduction in complaints is the police behaving better because they're being recorded - or factitious complaints being prevented, in which case the police will want them on all the time anyway.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Solution for optional activation

        If you're in the office, it could detect the wifi network or something similar and deactivate. No reason to film cops doing paperwork, etc. and they obviously would have surveillance cameras there anyway.

        Outside those areas, you should be able to turn it off but it should make a beep every 10-15 seconds to remind you that its off, and serve as a notice to the public that its off. So if you go to the bathroom, you turn it off, and when it keeps beeping it reminds you to turn it back on again. Ditto if you are conducting a sensitive interview - it lets the person being interviewed know the camera is still off (though perhaps in such situations the cop just removes the camera, speaks into it "I'm removing it because I'm going to interview a rape victim who doesn't wish to be on camera" and when he retrieves it it'll be beeping to remind him to put it back on.

  2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Cause and Effect

    The result is not counter-intuitive. In fact it is expected. It also has very little to do with people's "reaction" - it has to do with "policing methods".

    1. The officer will not record anything that is likely to end up without a beat 'em up. This skews the stats to start off with.

    2. The officer will definitely turn on the recording when they think that a beat-em-up is inevitable so he/she has evidence to back their position that the beat-em-up was needed. Some more confirmation bias.

    3. In circumstances where the officer in the past would have considered multiple times should they go for a beat-em-up or not because it will end up with the IPCC and "my word vs theirs" they will now not give it a second thought. They will turn on the camera and apply the beat-em-up as there will be evidence to show that it was needed. So a beat-em-up will happen where the officer would have managed to avoid it in the past.

    If the camera is always on everybody tends to forget about it and after some initial spike of beat-em-ups things will probably go back to normal. If however, it is turned on on-demand, the 71% increase will be there to stay - so bad all around.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cause and Effect

      In circumstances where the officer in the past would have considered multiple times should they go for a beat-em-up or not because it will end up with the IPCC and "my word vs theirs"

      So in many cases the beat-em-up would have happened anyway. The only need to assault an officer is 1. you are a violent crook anyway 2. the officer is a crook and you have done everything you can to avoid such a situation in which case the video evidence is crucial to your side of the story.

      I speak from a situation where a friend out ran the police but the police realised he was hiding in a relatives house. They arrested him in the house but in court the police officer stated he found the man hiding in the garden and had to fight to arrest him.

      There is no magic tech that is going to prevent all injustices

      1. Gideon 1

        Arms Race

        Everybody will eventually have to start wearing body cams to counter the crooked cops. We're already half way there with dash cams.

        1. macjules Silver badge

          Re: Arms Race

          You mean, "Swear it weren't me guvnor .. 'ere look at me bodycam footage. See? Shows me in the boozer with me mates and not at all near Hatton Garden with an hydraulic cutter."

  3. frank ly

    London cops .... strap on .......

    That was a sub-heading opportunity missed.

  4. Sporkinum

    Evidence of the old glazzies. Nothing up their sleeves. No magic, little Alex. A job for two, who are now of job age. The police.

  5. Tubz

    Should be on all the time while out in the public, then again, cops and cameras, footage gets misplaced or deleted regularly, when convenient for the coppers !

  6. Bob Rocket

    On all the time

    Stored in a secure place for one year, extension via court order by any party permissible.

    Only accessible by any party via court order.

    That would make it acceptable and less corruptable, not going to happen though.

  7. Adam 52 Silver badge

    Lying with science reporting

    What El Reg says:

    "research has suggested that when the police are allowed to choose when to begin recording, they are more likely to be assaulted, and the number of incidents involving the use of force actually rises"

    What the research actually says:

    "Our multisite randomized controlled trial reported that police body-worn cameras (BWCs) had, on average, no effect on recorded incidents of police use of force"

    1. israel_hands

      Re: Lying with science reporting

      Unless you're suggesting the police use force to assault other cops, you need to re-read the two statements you posted. First one refers to cops being assaulted, second one refers to cops doing the assaulting.

      Problem is, as noted, if it's up to the filth whether they turn it on or not then they'll make sure it's switched off before they do anything that would get the IPCC involved. And if they're made to keep them always-on when out and about the number of cameras being rendered inoperative through "accidental damage" will mysteriously rise.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    £3 to £6 M

    That's a lot of money. I wonder if it was researched whether that could have been better spent on crime prevention or education programs, so as to get more people to actually behave like adults. The sort of thing that doesn't need replacing batteries and can be passed on from generation to generation.

    Anyone has any info on that?

  9. MrDamage

    How good is the security on the cameras?

    Just thinking o the delicious irony if they were hacked, and the plod were then partly responsible for the next DDOS.

  10. Dan White

    Selective reliability?

    I look forward to the reports of large batches of body cameras simultaneously failing for "Operational reasons" at any large public protest, just like the mysterious failure of all static CCTV cameras...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trust a copper?

    So your average corrupt copper is going to choose to turn on the camera before the falsify evidence or assult the victim? lololololololol

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lots of people...

    miss the point completely.

    The most used power of any police officer is discretion. The telling off rather than a ticket or a charge. Discretion is something that is taught and encouraged at training and beyond.

    If you want cameras constantly recording, then you'll get no discretion for fear of putting my job at risk.

    From the delivery driver at 4am who broke a red light with no other traffic around on a long, clear street (by law, straight charge) who gets a talking to, to the guy who's had a bereavement, a wake, and the party's got a bit out of hand and who swears and shouts at the cops (by law, straight arrest) who gets taken to the car, calmed down, spoken to and released again, to dozens of other incidents where discretion is used rather than a charge that'd serve no benefit to the public, that'd all stop.

    Think about what you want more. I'm happy with either, but it's the individual that suffers, not the cop.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Lots of people...

      Why would it stop? There is no mandatory requirement for a police officer to arrest in any situation you describe.

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