Body worn video’s impact on society


Body cameras record what happens on the front line. They provide support, reassurance and confidence for the people who work there. More than that, they produce extraordinary results for society as a whole. Here are just a few statistics:

  • 90% reduction in complaints against officers
  • 50% reduction in use of force
  • 90% increase in early guilty pleas
  • 22% increase in time available for patrol

The use of body cameras when responding to a domestic violence incident is a keen illustration of the direct impact upon society. Operation Hyperion, an independent study conducted with the University of Portsmouth, found that there was a 75% increase in domestic abuse occurrence to crime conversion when Reveal body cameras were rolled out to every officer across an area.

The same study found that, overall, crime occurrence was down 7.8% with the roll out of body cameras to every officer. This combination of data – overall crime down and domestic violence occurrence-to-crime conversion up - demonstrates that although there were less criminal occurrences as a whole, a higher percentage of them were converted into crimes, which points to more effective and efficient policing.

This is especially true in domestic abuse incidents. Historically, it was difficult to press charges against somebody when the victim was unable to give testimony against them, whether that was out of fear, loyalty or being unable to remember due to the effects of alcohol. This, coupled with a court hearing after the event when any injuries may have healed and the well turned out criminal appears calm and collected in the docks, creates a void between what actually happened, and what appears to have happened.

However, with the introduction of Reveal body cameras, the independent study found that footage is enough in and of itself to communicate the horrors of the crime to the court; which resulted in a significant rise in charges.  

One victim spoke out on the BBC’s Panorama praising the police’s uses of the Reveal body camera:

“They could see the emotion of how frightened I was.’ She said ‘If they (police) had left that night and that camera wasn’t on, and it had been a little bit later, they wouldn’t have found me as they did, they would have found a body.

“People don't realise how bad these things are but with that footage they could see how bad it was... A picture does tell a story but actually watching it, they could see I was totally confused...which you don't get from a photograph.”

The flow chart below shows the involvement of body cameras in convictions for domestic assault before (Time 1) and after (Time 2) body cameras were rolled out to all officers.

(Operation Hyperion, 2015)

There was little information on one of the 3 successful prosecutions other than the female victim ‘could remember nothing about it’ due to the effects of alcohol. However, footage from the body cameras was enough in itself to persuade the court and which subsequently resulted in charges.

In the other 2 cases, no victim statements were required and only the footage of the immediate aftermath and officers’ statements were available. Without the footage, these two occurrences may have, historically, gone unrecorded and unprosecuted.

Although the number of cases here is small, it does indicate that footage was used in all 3 successful cases without witness statements to obtain ‘criminal sanction’ convictions.

The effects of domestic abuse can be profound and persistent for the survivors, their families and the wider community. Being able to combat this abhorrent crime with body cameras has a significant impact on society as a whole.

Superintendent Garry Eaton of NIPD said “In a domestic violence scenario, if we can go out and immediately capture evidence and context, hopefully that will give support to victims who possibly are at their wits’ ends and possibly want to call the police but have suffered in silence”

Body cameras help officers support victims and give society confidence in 21st century policing and the criminal justice system.

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