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Body worn video: a key piece of equipment for modern day policing

In her latest blog, Alison talks about the roll out of body worn video for frontline staff and how it will be a key tool in an officer's tool kit.

Picture from Twitter: DCP & DP Body Worn Video (@DCP_DP_BWV)


The next time you see a Devon and Cornwall Police officer they might well be wearing a new bit of kit which is transforming the way evidence is gathered.

Some of you may have seen on Twitter over the past couple of weeks that body worn video cameras have been popping up in stations across Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. This is a very exciting time for the force - these small cameras are a huge technological step forward and will help gather vital evidence and protect our officers.

As we see the roll out of body worn video to all out frontline staff over the coming months I think it’s important that members of the public know what body worn video is, when it will be used and why the Chief Constable and I decided this is an area in where we need to be investing.

Earlier this year I carried out a survey to find out whether the public would be willing to pay a bit more to support policing. More than 4,000 people took part and 71% said they would be willing to pay an additional £1 per month (for a band D property). As part of this I promised to recruit and train more officers and make a significant investment in technology, including body worn video, to ensure that Devon and Cornwall Police is a modern force ready for the challenges of 21st Century policing.

Body worn video cameras are attached to an officer, usually just below the shoulder, recording incidents and interactions when necessary.

The Chief Constable and I have been looking closely at forces that are already using this technology and have seen that recordings can lead to early convictions and guilty pleas by providing indisputable evidence in court. This speeds up the criminal justice process, making it more efficient and effective for victims of crime. The footage also provides greater transparency to the public by giving unbiased evidence in complaints against officers and helps support our frontline staff by capturing those who decide to assault them when they are out keeping us all safe.

The law says that police can use body worn video in both public and private premises so long as its use is proportionate, legitimate and necessary – essentially meaning where it can be justified. Body worn video cameras will always be visible and on the outside of an officer’s uniform – the aim is not to deceive or try and catch anyone out but capture valuable evidence to be used in court.

When in use, the camera will flash red lights to show that it is recording and the model we have chosen has a front-facing screen so the public are always aware of what is being recorded. We also expect officers to announce, where possible and practical, to all those present when the camera is turned on.

Cameras will not be on all the time recording officers carrying out general patrolling duties but there are a number of scenarios where there is an expectation for an officer to always use body worn video. Some of these include domestic incidents, carrying out a stop and search, stopping a vehicle and any use of force. When an officer returns to the station they dock their camera and upload the footage. This will kept for a maximum of 31 days unless it is needed as evidence in court.

As part of the Police and Crime Plan I promised to get the best out of the police and introducing body worn video is one way in which we can gather better evidence for criminal convictions, better protect our front line staff and provide greater transparency to the public when dealing with complaints. This is something that will benefit the public and the police.  

In phase one of the roll out of body worn video in Devon and Cornwall officers based in Camborne, Camborne Traffic Centre, Charles Cross, Crownhill, Devonport, Plympton and Torquay will be the first to receive cameras. But this is a forcewide project and officers in many other locations have started to receive training in preparation the next phase of the roll out – even in some of our most rural, isolated communities like the Isles of Scilly!   

For the more technological among you, these Reveal D-series cameras shoot in high definition 1080p and have excellent low-light capabilities making them suitable for all aspects of police work. They have a sealed rubber amour making them waterproof and dropproof to ensure they can withstand the day-to-day activities of our officers. A 12-hour record time will last an entire shift. Thanks to its innovative design, these cameras can also be used in vehicles, as an interview recorder or hand-held camera.

I think most of you will agree that body worn video will become a fantastic tool in all our officers’ tool kits – a key piece of equipment for modern day policing and evidence gathering to keep officers and the public safe.

You can follow the progress of the body worn video roll out on Twitter at @DCP_DP_BWV

Alison Hernandez