Warning to Budget Body Worn Video Cameras


Police forces need to act with caution when buying "budget" body worn video (BWV) equipment, a leader on the issue has warned.

Inspector Stephen Goodier, who has overseen a rollout of the devices in Hampshire, said that although top-end BWV cameras are expensive compared to shop bought cameras, the cost was worth it.

"In one force they are paying £30 per unit, but if we are going to go down this route we need to do it properly," he told the Effective Complaints Handling in the Police Conference during December 2014.

"The Police Service is going to be looking for the cheapest equipment on the back of fiscal restraints, but we must have investment and delivery for body worn video."

He added that in reality, the costs are even higher when taking into consideration other things such as storage.

However, he warned that buying "off the shelf products" may be a cheaper alternative, but that the "risks of not doing it right are horrendous".

He said: "You need a camera that can be fully adapted, which is not really possible with an off the shelf camera…They also don't offer the level of security needed under data protection - there aren't enough safeguards if anything happens to the camera or footage."

In Hampshire, the force issued every frontline officer with body worn video on the Isle of Wight, with the results currently being evaluated by the University of Portsmouth. Interim results show reductions in complaints and crime since the roll out. 

Recently a move to increase to 2,800 cameras from 500 in partnership with Reveal was made by Hampshire police.

"We need to empower officers so that if they are involved in a situation which requires them to use their pocket notebook, you expect them to use the camera as well," said Insp Goodier.

Continued: "In Hampshire, if the footage is not classed as evidence then it is kept for 31 days. Retention policies can be changed but the main thing is that you must have one." 

"One issue is immediate deletion from officers themselves - some forces allow their officers to cherry pick and they can delete the footage immediately. That is not a particularly well thought out policy and is a risky route to take."

"Yes, there may be occasions where a complaint comes in two months later and the footage has been deleted, but there are competing demands - what information should you be keeping? You can't have a 'just in case' policy."

Steve White, Chair of the Police Federation, said body worn video was a real area of growth for the police service.

He said: "This technology is a positive step… Politicians have a short-term view and only look at the next four years - with things like this we need a much longer-term view."