back to article Police camera inaction? Civil liberties group questions forces' £23m body-cam spend

Almost three-quarters of police forces have forked out more than £22m on body-worn cameras, but are failing to properly monitor how the videos are used in court, according to a report released today. Proponents of the technology argue it will improve transparency in frontline policing, stop police and the public from behaving …

  1. Fihart

    Could save money ?

    If footage of incidents avoids lengthy enquiries over allegations police brutality during arrests it may pay for itself. If the cameras record indisputable evidence of crimes and more accused plead guilty, will save police time. Equally, may discourage any misconduct by officers.

    However, as a local activist I despair that the shortage of resources for London's force is affecting operations to the point where, for example, individual drug dealers seem not to be considered worth targeting.

    But I also note that didn't stop the Met ordering lots of Thinkpads, among the more expensive laptops on the market.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Could save money ?

      Bristol police save money and resources by ignoring cannabis use (it's an unofficial, official policy), perhaps that's what the met are doing, or is that too much like joined-up thinking?

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Could save money ?

        Bristol police save money and resources by ignoring cannabis use

        Yup, they spend their money more effectively going after the growers and dealers, who they can then often put away on a mandatory sentence for firearms offences as well. Oddly enough, going after serious and organised crime is more beneficial to society than arresting the druggies in the bearpit or moving them on.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Could save money ?

          Oddly enough, going after serious and organised crime is more beneficial to society than arresting the druggies in the bearpit or moving them on.

          Whilst I'd agree with the prioritisation, the simple reality is that there's little benefit to society of locking up a drug importer or distributor, because there's plenty of demand. So locking up one local drug baron achieves nothing, somebody else immediately steps in to take his place. The only logical solution is to legalise and regulate the supply of drugs, so that there's not the profits to attract serious organised criminals. Use pharmaceutical supply chains, regulate the hell out of the recreational drug business. That won't stop the harm of excess drug use, but if the addicts only have to commit one third of the number of burglaries to fund their addiction because the prices are much lower, then society wins. And by regulating the supply properly it would be possible to identify patterns of usage, who's utterly addicted, who's a casual user, who's moving onto harder drugs etc, and target some intervention. Free needles and syringes included with every pack of whatever, should reduce blood transmitted diseases.

          We can easily fix the drug problem, and we could similarly easily reduce a lot of low level "habit-funding" crime. Since the drugs barons are inherently violent, criminal bastards, they'll look for alternative means of making money, and the police will have to follow them and stamp out those new "markets".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Bobbies love em

      No longer do they have to put up with the scum of the earth claiming they've been harmed by the police arresting them.

      It's all on tape, the officer can get on with their day un-hindered.

      1. The First Dave

        Re: Bobbies love em

        Yet funnily enough, when a suspect 'falls down the stairs' the camera's never seem to be working/recording/looking the right way.

    3. Rob D.
      Coat

      Re: Could save money ?

      Bit off topic but individual drug dealers are not worth targeting and a lot more money could be saved by removing that problem as well. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/15/war-on-drugs-has-failed-public-health-bodies-call-for-drug-use-t/ or https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/23/war-on-drugs-failing-decriminalisation-prohibition or a range of other sources on why the police should be able to spend our money elsewhere.

      FWIW that is different from the police enforcing the laws currently in place, or the effect that criminalisation of behaviours plus enforcement results in strengthening/worsening the criminal element involved.

  2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    Just because the numbers aren't available.

    It should be pretty obvious why these things are useful. They keep both the police and the public honest in their interactions.

    If they are mandatory for a force, then an officer will have difficult questions to answer if they are turned off, especially if during an arrest.

    Conversely, if someone is arrested and claims the police acted improperly, the footage can show whether this is true or not. This is especially true in cases where mobile phone footage turns up on YouTube showing police restraining someone forcefully, but mysteriously doesn't show the run-up where the person being restrained is committing the act that led to their restraint.

    Obviously they have limitations - they can only record what is in their field of view, and anything happening off frame is open to interpretation. Overall though, I think their use is a positive influence on justice.

    The flip-side is that people have legitimate concerns about being filmed. I'm not sure why this should be different because it is the police doing it, rather than anyone else (it is perfectly legal to record in public places, with some exceptions around sensitive areas). I'd suggest that the footage from these things should be properly kept, and be available to FOI requests. Obviously, there are considerations here where it may be evidence in a court case, and releasing it publicly before that case is concluded would be prejudicial to the case, but I don't see any reason why forces shouldn't eventually release all the footage into the public domain. If nothing else, it would give people a good education as to what the majority of police work involves, because I bet you it's not what most people think.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Just because the numbers aren't available.

      "Obviously they have limitations - they can only record what is in their field of view, and anything happening off frame is open to interpretation."

      British Bobbies have the perfect head gear to incorporate a Google Street View type panoramic camera.

      While in operation I suggest a small rotating blue light fitted at the top to indicate it is switched on so that people know they are being recorded.

      1. Adam 52 Silver badge

        Re: Just because the numbers aren't available.

        "British Bobbies have the perfect head gear to incorporate a Google Street View type panoramic camera."

        It's not the 1980s any more. Most forces have dropped custodian helmets, and female constables never had them.

    2. Dave 15

      Re: Just because the numbers aren't available.

      I think the uses being made of spy in the sky cameras to record through people bedroom windows and in their back gardens hints at some of the reasons we don't want coppers having this sort of stuff.

      If - and only if - a camera not being on before during and after an arrest made it a scenario where the 'criminal' was immediately let off with a compensation package might it become semi-reasonable.

      1. Alien8n Silver badge

        Re: Just because the numbers aren't available.

        Having been a witness to an officer arresting a friend of mine I'm strongly in favour of body cams. The officer in question physically choked my friend whilst pulling on his body with his knee against his spine. Not only did the choke hold almost cause my friend to pass out, leaving bruises to his neck, the knee in his spine could have resulted in injuries that could paralyse. Turns out the officer in question had been persuing a long running campaign against the family, to the point they were overheard the next day planning to arrest my friend's brother, despite him doing nothing. Despite witness statements to backup the brutality claim the officer didn't even get a slap on the wrist as the IPCC dropped the case based on his sole evidence. Also handily for him he was positioned in the only camera blackspot on the street.

        My friend's crime? Someone who didn't like him accused him of raping his girlfriend. In the street. While surrounded by 20 other people who saw nothing. Even his girlfriend's statement was ignored.

  3. Solarflare

    23,000,000 / 48,000 = ~£480 per camera.

    I understand you would want them ruggedised, small and reliable, but I would have thought you could have gotten all that quite comfortably for £50 per camera. Seems like another public sector lightbulb replacement to me.

    1. The Mole

      The lifetime of a £50 camera, SD cards and battery pack would probably be on average a matter of a few weeks or days.

      Remember the £480 per camera probably also includes costs for associated systems and training to actually transfer the data off the camera (scaled to however many officers in each shift have a camera), store the data redundantly (imagine what the response was if the crucial video was 'lost'), systems to view, locate and extract the video for court/interview purposes, provide large scale battery charging etc.

      Given a basic GoPro seems to be about £150 there is obviously some government contact premium here but it isn't as bad as it could be.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Presumably the £480 doesn't just go towards the camera, but also the recording systems, backups, battery charging, support, training etc.

      1. Adam 52 Silver badge

        An average shift doesn't have one PC per PC (this could get confusing), more like 2 per shift and some aren't even powerful enough to run Google Maps let alone edit HAD video.

        £480 sounds too cheap.

        What's that you say? Editing unnecessary? I'm not sure the judge is going to be happy watching an entire day's footage for one incident.

        Oh, civilian support will do that. You mean the ones Theresa May sacked to "protect the front-line" (and only worked 9 to 5 anyway; not very useful when you need to charge or release).

  4. WibbleMe

    Yes the Civil Liberties of a thug that says I did not spit in the face of a police officer to the Judge, would a body camera prove this, on the same site a camera can raise the standard of policing.

    There is a certain kind of person that studies Civil Liberties, the same kid of people that want to give paedophiles protection and radicalists rights to stay in the UK

    1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Please don't use facts

      Allow your bigotry to flow unfettered!

    2. Smooth Newt
      WTF?

      the Civil Liberties of a thug

      There is a certain kind of person that studies Civil Liberties, the same kid of people that want to give paedophiles protection and radicalists rights to stay in the UK

      And yet you would be grateful for the rights they have fought for if you were accused of a crime.

      Or perhaps you think that, for example, you should be thrown into prison for the rest of your life without any sort of hearing, and until that happens that any random thug should be allowed to come and beat the shit out of you if they feel like it.

    3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      There is a certain kind of person that studies Civil Liberties, the same kid of people that want to give paedophiles protection and radicalists rights to stay in the UK

      Yeah, look at all those thugs with their jobs as Human Rights lawyers.

      You, sir, are an idiot alt-right scrublord. You might like to try visiting reality one day and making some trivial observations as to how people actually behave.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Two sides to every argument

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuMTj0wT6Cs

    Shows the killing of a policeman as captured by a body camera.

    1) If the body camera captures a criminal in the act then great

    2) If the body camera captures the police doing wrong then great.

    My major concern is if vital bits of [cough, cough] video suddenly go missing when 2) above happens.

    Civil Liberties people complain about accountability then don't want this...??????

    What do they want????

    1. Dave 15

      Re: Two sides to every argument

      What do they want...

      They want evidence and proof of the use of the technology. It is fairly normal for the UK (and probably other) police to claim something and follow this up by measures. For example the claim about speeding and then the rash of speed cameras carefully hidden among shrubs, behind walls, behind signs and so on placed to catch as many people as possible as a money raising activity... what you never find are cameras near real problem areas like outside schools or in towns.

      As normal we also know that the images will be scanned with face recognition and so on to track people 'to stop terrorism' (yeah, yeah, more like to stop the population getting fed up of what the rich and government are doing so the top dogs can keep us plebs under their feet). We also know the data will be stored indefinitely and shared with anyone and everyone they want (especially the USA)

      Frankly the police and government long ago stepped over any line in the sand and are currently abusing their power in a disgusting way allowed on by the coronation street watching masses who think its all great because they think they have nothing to hide

      1. Adam 52 Silver badge

        Re: Two sides to every argument

        For all your talk of evidence, your argument seems to be sorely lacking in any.

        Sure you'll be able to dig up isolated incidents and unsubstantiated rumours but evidence of widespread corruption?

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Two sides to every argument

          "evidence of widespread corruption?"

          It's a lot more subtle and insidious than actual corruption. It's institutionalism. Spend a long time in law enforcement and eventually everyone you see looks like a criminal you just don't have evidence against yet.

      2. goodjudge

        Re: Two sides to every argument

        "...the rash of speed cameras carefully hidden among shrubs, behind walls, behind signs and so on placed to catch as many people as possible as a money raising activity..."

        Guess what. If you don't speed, it doesn't matter where the camera is, it won't go off. Also, AFAIK it's still a requirement to have the little white lines painted down the middle of the road to show the 50m or so being measured. I presume you look at the road in front of you?

      3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Two sides to every argument

        As normal we also know that the images will be scanned with face recognition and so on to track people 'to stop terrorism' (yeah, yeah, more like to stop the population getting fed up of what the rich and government are doing so the top dogs can keep us plebs under their feet). We also know the data will be stored indefinitely and shared with anyone and everyone they want (especially the USA)

        Do you have any evidence for this? A simple thought experiment about the processing power (and cost) required to scan all footage and identify faces would seem to suggest that this would be impractical, compared to the old-fashioned methods of intelligence-led observation, tapping and tracking of mobile phones, etc.

        Not to mention that the people under observation might get a little bit suspicious if they're followed around all the time by a copper, pointing a camera at their faces, which is what would be required to make this actually possible.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Two sides to every argument

          "Do you have any evidence for this? A simple thought experiment about the processing power (and cost) required to scan all footage and identify faces would seem to suggest that this would be impractical, "

          But isn't that the reason for SHA-1 being good enough? It won't be practical to routinely crack it because of the enormousness cost and processing power needed. It's not even worth storing it for looking at later if technology and methods change.

          It's almost on a par with "the world will need 5 computers"

          I'm not arguing with the thrust of your point, just your methods

      4. Rob D.
        Thumb Down

        Re: Two sides to every argument

        > For example the claim about speeding and then the rash of speed cameras carefully hidden among shrubs, behind walls, behind signs and so on placed to catch as many people as possible as a money raising activity... what you never find are cameras near real problem areas like outside schools or in towns.

        Evidence? Aside from needing examples of speed cameras behind walls and hidden in the herbacious borders, at what point does 'never find ... cameras ... in towns' start to look a bit too much like a Daily Mail rant. E.g. http://www.speedcameramap.co.uk/index.php?lt=51.4542645&ln=-0.9781302999999753&zm=13

        1. Baldrickk Silver badge

          Re: Two sides to every argument

          In most towns, you would be hard pressed to have clear enough road to excessively speed, you wouldn't make much of a difference for the cost of a camera.

          Small villages with A-roads through them on the other hand... guess where I see cameras the most?

          IMHO, that's good use of the camera. Enforcing the speed limit where the opportunity for both speed and harm coincide.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Two sides to every argument

            "In most towns, you would be hard pressed to have clear enough road to excessively speed,"

            You'd think so. My street is a half mile long and it gets 10k cars over 40mph every week, with ~1000/week over 50mph.

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Two sides to every argument

            "In most towns, you would be hard pressed to have clear enough road to excessively speed, you wouldn't make much of a difference for the cost of a camera."

            This sounds like the limited experience of a city commuter. Try driving through a town or city outside of rush hour and you will find it's a very different experience except, possibly, in the town centre.

        2. 's water music Silver badge
          Megaphone

          Re: Two sides to every argument

          Avoid being caught by speed cameras. Use this one weird trick...

          icon for community speedwatchers-->

    2. CraPo

      Re: Two sides to every argument

      "Shows the killing of a policeman as captured by a body camera."

      No it doesn't. From the YouTube blurb (did you even read it?):

      "Both officers were rushed to a hospital in Greenville, S.C. Police said both received non-life threatening injuries."

      In fact, it doesn't even show the shooting and who did it.

  6. LesC
    Stop

    UK based Azure Cloud?

    Is there such a thing as a truly UK cloud - being M$ won't this fall under the Patriot Act and $TLA up to Trump will get to see it first?

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: UK based Azure Cloud?

      Or will it fall under the GDPR?

      I'm sure some lawyers will quite happily take lots of money and ten years to come up with an answer.

      1. Adam 52 Silver badge

        Re: UK based Azure Cloud?

        GDPR grants lawful basis for both public interest and law enforcement, which should cover it.

    2. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: UK based Azure Cloud?

      I would not be at all surprised if at least one UK-owned company put in a lower bid than Azure and passed the technical assessment.

  7. Paratrooping Parrot
    Holmes

    When to record

    If the cameras work like the ones in the US, then we have a problem. The police choose when to record the video, as has been shown when the police in the US were caught planting evidence because it happened to record 30 seconds prior to pressing record.

    Police cameras should be recording at all times the police is wearing his uniform, so if there is an allegation brought up, they can review the footage for the day.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: When to record

      Perhaps the system should include live streaming to the cloud for the duration of a shift, then it is beyong the controll of the individual to control and will be trackable when accessing the cloud to edit.

      Just a suggestion as I know little about streaming or the cloud.

      1. Richard Jones 1
        Thumb Up

        Re: When to record

        While I agree with the idea of streaming to the cloud, my own experience of mobile access shows that mobile and access are two words on opposite sides. My own 'mobile' can certainly move about so it meets the mobile bit, however keeping the thing on line is not so easy so fails the 'access' test. In fact most of my house appears to be a not spot whenever an important call is likely to come in, funny thing damned PPI and the like calls and texts are immune to stoppage. Some local storage capacity is therefore essential otherwise gaps will happen and disputes about the gaps will result. That is before the other side resort to jamming equipment. However, any local storage must be hardened so that it can be uploaded without changes ASAP should service be restored.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: When to record

        Copurbate . com could probably se up a good streaming site.

    2. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Re: When to record

      Tetra can't​ even cope with everyone being logged in for voice, let alone streaming video.

    3. lozhurst

      Re: When to record

      I'm sure the bobbies will be reassured to know that the camera is recording for the entirety of their shift, capturing high qualify audio and video every-time they take a dump or have a piss. In fact, there's a good chance that might be classed as "extreme pornography" if some back-office reviewer gets off on it.

    4. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Re: When to record

      "Police cameras should be recording at all times the police is wearing his uniform"

      People who write statements like this clearly have no idea what's actually involved in police work.

      If police officers should have to video themselves sitting at a desk for 10 hours non-stop, filling in forms and operating a a fax machine why shouldn't IT developers? Or all office workers?

      Maybe we could make it much simpler and install cameras behind the mandatory telescreens in every room?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unless you make it a legal requirement you might as well not bother with them.

  9. Rob

    The chink in the armour

    The problem with these systems which is what the civil liberties is heading towards with their statement is that the lack of data around useage is due largely in part to the systems the store the footage have no formal governance built into them.

    Most public sector organisations struggle with governance on an IT system at the best of times which is why you need an IT system to enforce it on the staff using it. These systems have some basics like expiration periods (e.g. footage is deleted after 30 days unless tagged for evidence), but they don't capture other data like checking out a file for use or if it is being used for evidence attaching something like a case number or reference as metadata. Simple additional fields of data attached to a workflow would help build and enforce governance from a systems point of view.

    Obviously you then have the argument of blaming the software makers/camera providers for not building this into their software. They would then turn round and say that it wasn't a specification the customer asked for and we're back to the earlier part of my comment.

  10. frank ly Silver badge

    Secrets

    "... Greater Manchester Police, which has 3,148 cameras in use – the second highest figure across the group. It said the information was commercially sensitive, ..."

    Who are they in competition with?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Secrets

      "Who are they in competition with?"

      They other camera suppliers who might want to know how much the demos in the Seychelles cost?

  11. Adam 52 Silver badge

    There are roughly 130,000 constables in the UK. Assuming a 1:5 duty:off duty ratio (which is standard planning metric) and 5MB/sec video (less than my gopro), that's 130GB/ second to run cameras continually.

    Or 450TB/hour.

    Or 4.5% of LINX.

  12. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "the data wasn't collated or held in an accessible format"

    Okay, so here we have different police forces that have spent valuable money on recording equipment, then state that said equipment is either not used, records not kept or not accessible, or records even not made.

    What the hell is the use of the purchase then ?

    1. lozhurst

      Re: "the data wasn't collated or held in an accessible format"

      What we have here is different police forces saying that the footage is submitted as part of a file of evidence to the courts. Answering the question 'in case xyz was any video evidence used' is, therefore, easy. Going the other way and saying 'was video a used in any case' is impossible without going through every single case and seeing if any reference it in their list of evidence. But wait, it's worse than that - just because the footage might have been listed as evidence doesn't mean that it was ever used in court (that's down to the lawyers on both sides deciding which evidence to present). For that someone will have to review every court record for every case. And if the accused pleaded guilty, who knows if that was because of there being video evidence or they would have held their hands up to whatever it was they did without it?

      Yes it's poor and, as other commenters have pointed out, the meta data should exist to look this up (and now this has been published *maybe* the police forces will take that on board and sort it out) but at the moment it doesn't and they can't answer the question in a meaningful way.

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: "the data wasn't collated or held in an accessible format"

      "Okay, so here we have different police forces that have spent valuable money on recording equipment, then state that said equipment is either not used, records not kept or not accessible, or records even not made."

      No, what you have here is the police not being able to answer questions as to what the CPS and the court system are up to. Given that the CPS, courts, and police are three separate things, who would you expect to be paying for this data collection? Whose stretched-to-breaking-point-by-a-idealogically-led-austerity-drive budget does that come from?

    3. salamamba too

      Re: "the data wasn't collated or held in an accessible format"

      " Okay, so here we have different police forces that have spent valuable money on recording equipment, then state that said equipment is either not used, records not kept or not accessible, or records even not made."

      - you are missing the codicil - Big Brother Watch was obtaining their data using Freedom of Information requests. The data may well be there, but would take time to collate. Organisations store data for their own requirements, which often don't fit well with the needs of people making FOI requests.

      If collating the data is possible, but predicted to taken over a certain number of hours, then BBW would have been told this, and given the option of paying for the collation to occur. I haven't yet seen anyone willing to pay for the information they want on an FOI.

  13. jantill

    Criminals make money by whatever means possible.

    If drugs were to be legalised such that the livelihoods of the drugs criminals evaporated they are unlikely to get a job shelf-filling in the local store but would find other "easy" ways to make money. That could be by a programme of kidnapping (it could be you or your's abducted).

  14. DougS Silver badge

    You need to hold police accountable for how it is used

    Make sure they are disciplined if they constantly "forget" to turn it on before making contact with a subject, or it mysteriously gets turned off after it was on during an incident. Make sure the back end people who are tasked with maintaining them insure they are kept in working order, they do spot checks to insure cops are complying with the rules for their use, and have appropriate funding to do this. And finally their civilian oversight needs to insure that if defense attorneys keep footage to defend their clients, police don't stonewall, or claim the footage was "lost".

    There have been several incidents in the US this year where cops were recorded planting evidence on suspects. The reason? The camera model they are using is always recording, when you turn it 'on' it has a 30 second buffer that gets included (intended to capture the beginning of incidents if something occurs and the cop triggers it - or something else automatically triggers it like removal of gun or taser from the holster) Those cops apparently didn't listen when they were being trained, and got caught dirty!

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