The ground-breaking technology called Oxevision has been developed by a company called Oxehealth, a spin-off company formed from a partnership between Oxford University’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust.
The cameras allow detainees to be monitored remotely, and can alert to potentially risky activity such as self-harm or significant health issues allowing for early intervention.
The system can see ‘micro blushes’ that accompany heart beats, which the human eye cannot detect. It counts these micro blushes to calculate a pulse rate on a small area of visible skin.
The system is the latest innovation to be introduced by the force in a bid to improve both the mental and physical safety of detainees in police custody. It follows the introduction of foam footballs, mindful colouring and jigsaw puzzles in some force custody units to help distract detainees, many of whom have communication difficulties such autism, mental health problems and learning difficulties.
The officer who oversaw the trial, Sgt Becky Davies, says detainees have reported lower levels of anxiety as a result, as well as anecdotal evidence suggesting it has led to less self-harm, use of force and other high-demand behaviours. Devon and Cornwall has also shared this practice with 16 other forces across the UK, as well as HMP Exeter.
Oxevision cameras can see movements of the chest and diaphragm as we breath and counts these movements to calculate a breathing rate, just as a nurse would if they were observing the patient with a stopwatch.
The technology is even effective and accurate with detection through thick clothing and bedding and even when the body is partially obscured, for example, by hiding under a blanket.
While Oxevision has been used previously in some hospital and healthcare settings, Devon and Cornwall Police’s use of the system in custody cells is the first of its kind in the world.
The force has conducted a two-year trial of the technology at three police stations across Devon which have proved successful.
Survey results on the force’s trial use of Oxehealth cameras revealed positive responses from custody teams using the technology. 100% of those surveyed said the system was easy to use and 95% said it improved detainee safety and allowed custody staff to respond quicker to incidents in cells.
Following the successful trial, the force is now in the process of installing a further eight cameras in the cells at the new Exeter Police Station on Sidmouth Road at Middlemoor, bringing the total number of cameras to 18 across the force area.
Alison Hernandez, Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, is responsible for the force’s estates and has overseen the installation of Oxevision.
Commissioner Hernandez said: “We’re delighted to be at the forefront of introducing this vital technology which I truly believe will save lives.
“The safety of detainees is paramount and anything that can assist with detection and early intervention is to be warmly welcomed.
“Staff and officers on the ground in custody suites across the region have been very positive about the limited trials we have conducted so far, so the further roll-out of this incredible technology can only be a good thing.
“Combined with the other simple yet extremely effective distraction methods introduced recently by our highly skilled custody officers, we are working hard to make police custody in Devon and Cornwall as safe as possible.”
Head of Custody, Chief Inspector Mel Simmonds. said: “Devon and Cornwall Police are committed to delivering high quality care to all detainees in our custody centres.
“The demographic of our detainees and their range of pre-existing and presenting health needs is diverse. Being able to recognise these needs early and respond swiftly to all types of vulnerability or illness is key to delivering safer detention and maximising the safety of those in our care.
“Oxehealth is a fantastic, innovative tool that complements the skills, training and professionalism of our custody staff and health care professionals, ultimately enabling us to save lives. We are proud to be the first custody centre in the world to have invested in this technology.”
Katrin Engelmann, Business Development Director of Oxehealth, said: “The deployment with Devon and Cornwall Police is a real milestone for Oxehealth.
“Having previously worked solely in healthcare, the opportunity to collaborate and help to improve risk management in a police setting was a global first for our technology.
“We look forward to exploring further opportunities in this setting.”
For more information about the technology visit www.oxehealth.com.