Since its launch in 2009 the British pressure group known a Big Brother Watch has undertaken extensive research and recording of incidents relating to issues around civil liberties and personal privacy. As a whole the group tackles a wide range of topics and regularly publishes reports and fact sheets which share their detailed findings.
Their latest work presents statistics on various aspects of body worn camera usage amongst police officers, particularly those of the GMP (Greater Manchester Police) force, which Big Brother Watch claim sports the second highest number of officers using body cams (nearly 3,200 members of staff), beaten only by the Metropolitan Police force, which leads the league tables with 22,000 body cams issued.
What’s on the Agenda?
Big Brother Watch (BBW) doesn’t exist to automatically oppose surveillance of citizens; instead its remit is to check the methods used are fair, appropriate and productive. With 71% of all UK police officers now equipped with body cams as standard, the possibilities for misuse must be considered and avoided.
The concern of BBW officials is justified by previous reports which they claim highlighted the problems body cams can provoke, citing examples of cases like council staff using footage as evidence of poor parking or confused recycling habits.
Getting Things Right from the Start
Basically, BBW’s concerns are not so much with body cams being used to protect front-line staff and those they interact with good physical evidence, but with the possibility of misuse. Without the right motivation for introducing body cams and a firm commitment to handling the footage generated sensitively to respect and preserve privacy, there is a much greater chance of misuse and even abuse of what can be a useful tool.
Evidence of Success Is Essential
Body worn cameras supplied to police forces by companies such as pinnacle response are billed as aids to improve safety for officers, record impartial evidence, offer protection to the public and help prove guilt where appropriate, yet statistics which offer hard evidence of these goals are not as forthcoming as BBW would like.
Perhaps once a year or two has passed there will be insightful documented evidence which will show more clearly the impact body cams have had in the world of policing and all who come into contact with it.