British bobbies get body video

largeThe London Met is beginning what it claims to be the largest roll-out of Body Worn Video (BWV) cameras to police officers in the world.

Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe joined London Mayor Sadiq Khan in Lewisham Borough to inaugurate the deployment of the devices, which will be issued to police and frontline specialists in all of London’s 32 boroughs.

The new cameras are turned on by officers during any dealings with the public or attendance at crime scenes. The video is automatically uploaded and stored video when reconnected to a dock later at the station.

Videos saved are discarded after 31 days unless earmarked as evidence, and any affected member of the public may request a copy of the video within that time-period.

The cameras, which are manufactured by Axon and employ that company’s cloud network for uploading, feature a 30-second buffer which allows the officer to begin recording even after notable events have begun. The cameras are always recording, but abandon the recordings twice a minute until the officer commits to document an event. The ‘always on’ buffer does not feature audio.

The devices contain a blinking green light during buffer mode. When active recording begins, the light turns red and a clearly audible beep sounds at intervals.

The Met said that cameras are not always-on due to concerns about the public’s dealings with police officers, but it is more likely that the problem of storing hundreds of thousands of hours of video even for 31 days is a bit problematic.

Still the presence of cameras does reduce complaints against the police. While the BWV did not change the way that police officers deal with suspects or victims, nor did the devices inspire any change in the way officers evaluated and carried out stop-and-search procedures, it did mean that complains dropped.

The Axon camera has a 130-degree wide-angle lens and can be connected to via the mobile app Axon View, available for iOS and Android. The app appends GPS data and facilitates real-time metadata tagging for later keyword-based searching in the cloud evidentiary archives.

With remote monitoring of an officer’s camera, the 30-second buffer rule obviously does not apply, and anyone authorised to access an officer’s camera can apparently do so on the same ongoing basis as a CCTV camera.

Most of the UK trial reports show British officers in favour of the video evidence system. The Met UK roll-out is expected to be complete by summer of 2017.