The roll-out of body cams to all frontline police officers in Staffordshire is key to building public confidence in policing, says Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis.
All frontline police officers, PCSOs and Special Constables in Staffordshire were provided with body cams in an initiative funded by the Commissioner more than two years ago. Policing in Staffordshire was the first in the country to equip all frontline officers with the technology with 550 cameras now in use. Armed police officers also use the body cams.
Research published today by Cambridge University shows that the use of body cams is causing a ‘sea change’ in police transparency in the UK and US, benefiting both the police and the public.
In Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, Safer Neighbourhood Panels in every local policing area have been trained to examine body worn video camera footage from Taser use and from stop and searches by police officers.
Mr Ellis, who spoke about the issue on BBC1’s Breakfast programme this morning, said:
“The use of body cams is invaluable. They remove any doubt as to what happened in a situation which means the facts are clear.
“It was clear to me that the small pilot undertaken in Staffordshire before I took office needed a swift and full roll-out across the entire force.
“It’s obvious that if you open up policing, make it more transparent and use technology in a way that protects both police officers but also the way police deal with the public, it makes sense and we’ve seen its working. It protects officers from spurious claims and makes sure officers are dealing with the public properly. It can also speed up the investigation of what can be at times complex complaints against officers.
“As part of the approach I set out to make Staffordshire Police the most open and transparent in the country, Safer Neighbourhood Panels have received training to look at policing in greater detail than ever before. Providing them with body cam footage to examine is putting the public at the heart of the way police use body cams and is gaining some real confidence between the public and the police.
“There are also tremendous benefits to capturing evidence on camera rather than in thousands of words on paper. If we can get footage to court very quickly, particularly in cases like domestic abuse, it can mean vulnerable victims don’t have to appear in court.
“It’s far more powerful for a jury to see pictures and hear audio of when officers arrive at a scene where there’s been domestic abuse. It gives a rich picture from a judicial point of view that has never been seen before.”