Police CCTV and body cameras can capture what phones couldn’t – Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Yorkshire News

But some reasons are not so obvious.

Take closed circuit television. When community groups or individual residents ask me for more CCTV cameras, it’s usually because they believe they will act as a deterrent or provide crucial evidence to identify the culprits.

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And of course there is some truth to that, even though criminals understand this all too well and will always try not to look directly at any camera, keep their heads down and their hoodies up. Still, their movements can be tracked and that can provide valuable clues.

Image: Simon Hulme.

When the killer of Sir David Amess MP was jailed for his murder earlier this year, many commented on the vast amount of CCTV footage the police had gathered, enabling them to track his movements in London, on public transport and all the way to MP surgery.

The coverage supported the prosecutor’s case about the killer’s intent.

But there is another reason why CCTV cameras and body cameras are important and that is not always understood. You can protect the police as well as the public.

Ever since the smartphone appeared in the late 1990s and early 2000s, people can film incidents that suddenly occur around them.

The police have become accustomed to the fact that if they attend to an incident or make an arrest on the street, there is a good chance that someone will record part of what happens.

As the Commissioner of Police and Crime, from time to time I am sent short excerpts from mobile phones showing what the sender tells me is ‘evidence’ of heavy-handedness or police brutality.

And of course, if an officer is using force (grabbing someone, using a baton, handcuffing, etc.), the few seconds while that’s happening show varying degrees of force.

However, the critical question is not ‘Is force being used?’ because it is. The critical questions are: ‘What led to this moment? Why did the officer think it was necessary to use force? Was this degree of force justified? And that short video clip is unlikely to answer any of those questions. Most of the clips sent to me show the point at which some degree of force is used, but rarely do they show what prompted the officer to take the action. However, that is the crucial question.

Good CCTV and body camera footage, which also captures what the officer is saying to people and what they are saying in return, can therefore be very important when reviewing an incident, for the sake of the officers.

Police officers have considerable powers over us, particularly the power of arrest.

Their authority and ability to use those powers is based on the most fundamental principle of the British police: what they do, they do with our consent.

For that to happen, we must have trust and confidence in them and know that when force is used there is a very good reason for it and it is used proportionately. CCTV and body camera evidence is one way we can rest easy.

There are times when the police need to be protected from harmful comments that can result from fragments of images on mobile phones.

Dr. Billings is the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner. This is an edited version of his usual blog.

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This notice was published: 2022-05-10 10:49:58

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