Inspector Educates American Counterparts
Inspector Stephen Goodier, who heads the body-worn video department of the Hampshire police force in the south of England, wrote the book on how the cameras should be used in Britain.
"The vast majority of cameras in Britain are quite large and bulky,” he says, and that’s deliberate. “They’re very obvious. It has a front-facing screen, so when the camera is activated the screen will actually flash up, and the individual can see themselves on film. There’s a large red flashing light. And the guidance stipulates that upon activation of the camera that the officer should make a declaration that the person, the subject, is being filmed.” The officer must also notify anyone else who comes into the frame.
Given his experience, Goodier has been sought out by the US Department of Justice and has flown to Washington to share his knowledge. But, unlike in Britain, American law enforcement is highly decentralized. While the UK can impose a single set of guidelines on its police forces, at least in England and Wales, the US cannot.
Another key issue is where to mount the cameras. Police in the UK are not routinely armed and rarely get involved in shootings, so a chest-mounted camera is not an issue. An officer involved in a shooting would most likely have her arms obscuring the camera’s view, perhaps during key moments. A head-mounted camera is an option, but Goodier says you will probably lose a lot of video quality and stability.
Hampshire Constabulary’s BWV equipment is currently supplied by Reveal, whom also supports the Isle of Wight Body-Worn Video Project (Operation Hyperion), which is the UK's first county-wide deployment of body worn video systems.
Firearms officers do not currently wear BWV cameras in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
Goodier says British police officers were initially skeptical of the cameras, and were also worried about "big brother" spying on them. But now he says there’s pretty universal enthusiasm. “What I’ve seen over the last few years is officers are crying out for body-worn video," he says. "They want it. They want to prove to people that they’re not what is often depicted in the press or the media about how they conduct themselves."
Hampshire Constabulary Chief Constable Andy Marsh says “the use of BWV in policing is becoming a key focus for investment across many forces and its use is now widespread within policing. The exciting and innovative technology stands to provide better standards of evidence and an accurate record of street encounters, as well as increased professionalism within the frontline.”