Body Worn Video

Position Statement

Subject: Body Worn Video (BWV)

BWV systems provide video and audio recording which are time and date stamped and make it possible for the police to record offences and capture evidence. They were first adopted by Devon & Cornwall Police in 2005. Numerous pilots across the UK have been carried out since then which all advocate value of BWV in bringing about early guilty pleas and a reduction in both the number of complaints against the police and the number of police assaults.

In August 2014 the Scottish Government published its Digital Strategy for Justice[1], with an objective to have ‘Fully Digitized Justice Systems’. It highlighted Police Scotland’s intention to submit a full business case to determine the precise police, practice and fiscal requirements of BWV cameras utilizing as up to date technology as possible. The SPA have indicated that they would like a public debate prior to any rollout.

The Association supports the use of BWV by police officers and is of the opinion that digital technology of this type could bring vast savings to the justice system in the form of early pleas. It also allows for greater public accountability for police actions and could bring early resolution to complaints about the police.

Evidence For Their Use:

An independent report[2] by ODS Consulting in July 2011 on pilots of BWV in Aberdeen and Paisley estimated that around £50,000 may have been saved in court, prosecution and police costs as a result of their use over one year. It also suggested that if it was assumed that the use of BWV led to 20% of the identified additional reduction in crime occurring in the areas that they were deployed, the wider value of their use would be estimated to be in the order of £140,000. The set up costs for the 2 pilots was £60,000, with running costs estimated at £500 per year for each area.

The key findings of a College of Policing report[3] on a survey of police in Essex using BWV cameras for domestic incidents showed that it could be effective at increasing the proportion of detections that resulted in a criminal charge. Officers with BWV frequently mentioned the evidence gathering benefits of the cameras – particularly for capturing context, comments and emotion accurately. They also reported feeling confident that incidents they attended would result in convictions.

Considerations:

Data storage for BWV is expensive and is estimated at £30m over 7 years. The cost of rolling out the use of BWV across the country is estimated at £5m.

The strongest message from the Essex survey and interviews was that the BWV cameras had practical limitations. Failure to record, recording at the wrong angle, difficulties switching it on/off and not working in poor lighting, as well as being bulky so difficult to wear were often given as a reason why officers stopped using the equipment.

In January 2015, Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, cautioned that BMV raised enormous questions about what is recorded, when to record, how to protect victims who don’t want to be recorded, how you know what impact it will have on your relationship with the community and questioned how the police will define the circumstances of when to turn the camera on or turn it off. [4]

Date: January 2015

Review Date: April 2015

 

[1]The Scottish Government, August 2014, “The Digital Strategy for Justice in Scotland”

[2] OSD Consulting, July 2011, “Body Worn Video Projects in Aberdeen and Renfrewshire Evaluation Report”

[3] College of Policing, October 2014, “The Essex Body Worn Video Trial The impact of Body Worn Video on criminal justice outcomes of domestic abuse incidents”

[4] The Scotsman, 14 January 2014, http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/top-stories/backing-for-roll-out-of-police-body-cameras-1-3191731