Labour has welcomed the publication of guidance given to Metropolitan Police officers testing bodyworn video cameras and have called for “a robust review” of any issues raised during the trial.
The Met is currently trialling the cameras as part of efforts to boost public confidence in the police by making officers’ interactions with the public more transparent.
It’s also expected that capturing evidence on camera will speed up convictions by making it harder for offenders to deny their culpability.
The cameras record a rolling 30 second loop of what they see which is automatically discarded unless the officer presses the ‘record’ button in response to an incident. In these circumstances the initial 30 seconds of video is retained and attached to the resulting recording.
Guidance issued to officers participating in the trial confirms that each is personally responsible for deciding when to use the cameras and says they should be able to explain and defend their decisions to record or not record specific events and interactions.
The document cautions that that stopping recording during an incident could expose them “to criticism or challenge” at a later date.
Officers are also urged to take account of local sensitivities when using the cameras as part of a stop & search and are warned that “it would be unlawful to use a stop & search power purely for the purpose of obtaining BWV footage to be used for intelligence or identification purposes.”
The guidance was released by Mayor Boris Johnson in response to a request from Joanne McCartney, Labour’s policing spokesperson on the London Assembly.
Ms McCartney welcomed the document’s release and said the cameras “have the potential to greatly increase police transparency”.
She added: “It is clear from this guidance that decisions on when to start and stop recording rests with the individual officer, so to avoid controversy here appropriate training and supervision must be ensured.
“The Met must also ensure that a robust review takes place once the pilot period is over. This must take into account feedback from community groups and civil rights organisations, so that any concerns arising from the pilot are addressed as soon as possible.”