Body camera roll-out for Police Scotland 'some way off'
Proposals to equip all frontline police officers throughout the country with body-worn cameras are “some way off” given cost pressures, Scotland’s chief constable has admitted.
Police Scotland chief constable Sir Stephen House reiterated support for a national rollout, albeit acknowledged issues around funding and public acceptance still need to be resolved.
The technology has been in use throughout Aberdeen since 2012 following a successful pilot by one of Police Scotland’s eight legacy forces, while specialist units in the west have also had body-worn cameras made available to them.
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House, who was appearing before the Scottish Police Authority, said the several millions required for a rollout across the single service is “not obviously available at this moment in time”.
The former Strathclyde Police chief constable said the force would seek to develop the proposal through the Justice Board, which is made up of those who lead organisations across the criminal justice system.
Given savings expected among other criminal justice organisations as a result of improvements in evidence, other agencies could be asked to help cover the costs associated with any expansion.
“It is part of our long-term strategy going forward in terms of more efficient, more transparent and quicker working, and a more effective criminal justice system – but it’s some way off,” said House.
“We will watch with interest organisations such as the Met who’ve said they are going to be introducing it Met-wide. They’re twice our size but I also notice that the Mayor of London has come forward and said he will fund it. If he would care to fund us as well then that would be good, but that’s unlikely.”
Though House claimed a “fairly wide acceptance” of camera surveillance exists within the UK, clarity would be needed around processes that would underpin use of devices by officers, such as asking permission of those being filmed.
“For that reason I believe the best way of doing this is for us and for yourselves [SPA] to lead the debate on this,” he added.
“We don’t want to be spending millions of pounds on body-worn cameras to find that actually the Scottish public decide, ‘do you know what, we don’t really want this on our police officers’ or significant proportions of the community say, ‘no we don’t want this and we find this oppressive’ when we’ve said it’s part of our policy to do it.
“We need to develop this with yourselves, with the Scottish Government, and frankly with the support and agreement of the public in Scotland. And if we can do that and find the millions of pounds it will cost then the police service certainly won’t resist it.”
His comments came a day after results of a three-year study on the effectiveness of body worn video were published in Canada.
Edmonton Police Service is to deploy body-worn cameras to officers involved in ‘high-risk interactions with the public’ over the next two to five years, with costs associated with reporting, storage and review of video preventing wider usage.
The effect of body-worn video on citizens’ behaviour was varied depending on the context and their mental or physical state, and was just as likely to escalate a situation as de-escalate it, researchers found.