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Police officers find body cameras “empowering,” new study shows

  • Independent report by London Metropolitan University shows overwhelming support for body cameras among officers
  • Camera described as ‘best piece of kit’ by one officer
  • Over 80% of front line officers believe cameras should be worn

New research has revealed widespread support among front line police officers for body-worn video cameras (BWVC), with officers finding their use "empowering."

The independent study, carried out by criminologists at London Metropolitan University, looked at officers’ attitudes towards the technology during trials with the City of London Police.

Officers were interviewed before and after the trial to identify any shifts in attitude towards the technology.

The research found that 83% of police officers feel that body cameras should be worn, with one adding that cameras are "the best piece of kit" they have used.

Evidence gathering equipment

The report, called ‘Trialling body worn video cameras for City of London Police: Perceptions and Justice Outcomes’, published today, also found that more than 93.2% of officers believe cameras will help with evidence gathering.

Lead author Dr James Morgan, from London Metropolitan University, said: "Contrary to many assumptions regarding ‘cop culture,’ the officers surveyed and interviewed for this study were very progressive in their approaches to this new technology.

"They wanted greater accountability and oversight and believed in their own policing practice and wanted this recorded.

"The findings also point to a particular context in policing, where actions are often scrutinised with members of public armed with their own recording equipment. The participants of this study wanted their own footage to counter negative portrayals of the police which might be found on social media, having their perspective and experiences better understood by the wider public.

"Police officers were mainly positive about the technology, most notably in the hope it would reduce spurious complaints and give police the opportunity to show the pressures in which they work under."

Reducing assaults on officers

Another interesting finding was that officers believe the presence of a camera has a positive and calming effect on confrontational situations.

The idea of body worn cameras in policing is relatively new, with the first camera being tested in 2005.

James added: "As well as reducing complaints it was hoped that this technology would reduce the time officers spent preparing evidence for court, increase guilty pleas and contribute to a reduction of assaults on officers."

More successful prosecutions

Second author, Dr Dan Silverstone who now works for Liverpool John Moores University, added: "The findings are particularly important because it addresses the stereotype that police officers often face. The cameras will play a significant role in improving police legitimacy and improving public safety.

"At the time of the study, there were issues to be addressed in ensuring that the evidence from the cameras were compatible with the Crown Prosecution Service systems. However, when these are resolved, evidence from the body worn cameras will increase the speed and success of prosecutions."

Positive officer response

Chief Superintendent David Lawes from the City of London Police said: "We are confident that the continued use of body worn video cameras will help us build on our efforts to bring policing in the Square Mile into the 21st century, while increasing confidence in our officers and the difficult job they do.

"These cameras already play an important role in our policing, as the mere presence of this type of video can often prevent potentially volatile situations from escalating.

"Simply put, video captures events in a way that can't be represented on paper in the same detail; as one officer in this study states, video enables one to feel the emotion of an incident.

"Our officers already work in an observed environment, with the prevalence of camera phones in society, and body worn cameras allow officers to show their interpretation of an incident, while still being fully accountable for their actions.

"A broad sample of City of London Police officers took part in this study into perceptions of the impact of using body worn cameras, and this document shows the largely positive response."

The cameras used in the trial were developed by the supplier TASER, and can be attached to the breast of a police uniform.


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