Police hand cameras to all officers in a bid to cut down the complaints
Every police officer on patrol in Tunbridge Wells will be wearing a body camera within the ‘next few weeks’, enabling them to record all their interactions with the public.
National studies have shown police receive 93 per cent fewer complaints when they wear the equipment, suggesting the technology helps to cool down potentially volatile encounters.
And Kent Police are anticipating the cameras will pay for themselves within two years. They estimate a £900,000 annual saving just from the reduction in time spent looking at complaints.
The £1.8million scheme was first piloted with 400 cameras in Maidstone, Medway and Thanet in late 2014. Due to its success in evidence-gathering and complaint reduction, a gradual rollout to all frontline officers, including police community support officers, began in September 2015. The distribution of 2,150 ‘Body Worn Video’ units should be completed before the end of the year.
Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Matthew Scott, whose predecessor Ann Barnes approved the policy last year, talked exclusively to the Times on a visit last week to West Kent.
“It’s a great innovation. We’ve had some fantastic results on cutting down frivolous complaints.
“They are particularly useful in monitoring incidents, moderating behaviour and providing crucial evidence,” he said.
As well as reducing costs, the cameras have been linked to an increase in guilty pleas from offenders in court.
In turn they provide a better service to victims of crime, as they can reduce the likelihood of having to give evidence in court.
Officers must inform members of the public that they are being filmed, although there is room for ‘professional judgement’, said a Kent Police spokesman, explaining that ‘officers can’t inform everyone at a protest attended by 200 people’.
The cameras are expected to increase accountability in the town, for both police officers and members of the public.
Evidence suggests that when both parties know they are being filmed, they think twice about what they do or say.