Editor, IFSEC Global

Author Bio ▼

Adam Bannister was Editor of IFSEC Global from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam is also a former Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
June 27, 2014

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Body-Worn Cameras: a Panacea for Policing Problems? Or a Regulatory and Technological Minefield?

BWV camera

A Pinnacle Response camera

Police trials of body-worn cameras promise to revolutionise policing for the better – regulating the behaviour of belligerent suspects, helping police officers follow procedure and capturing crucial crime-scene evidence.

A similar trial conducted in Rialto, California last year saw an 88% drop in complaints against police officers and a 60% fall in incidents of officers using force.

Now the cameras are being trialled across 10 London boroughs, including the London City Police, who are using body-worn video (BWV) and transmission technology developed by Xtralis, whose CEO comments below.

Should the trials succeed it could herald a new era of policing and rapid growth in an embryonic segment of the surveillance market. But if BWV, which was first trialled by Devon and Cornwall police back in 2006, has many potential benefits, then the police – in partnership with the industry – must surmount a number of technological and regulatory challenges first.

We canvassed the opinions of security professionals from across the supply chain on how the industry might help the police comply with the Data Protection Act, build public trust and prevent criminals from turning the technology to their advantage.

The BWV manufacturer: Samir Samhouri, CEO and chairman, Xtralis

The amount of data being collected if all police are fitted with body-worn CCTV would present a major challenge. Issues of storage capacity, effective archiving – for easy access etc – and setting appropriate storage regulations (password protection, encryption, transfer methods and storage periods) would all be pertinent.

This also applies to having an efficient procedure for removing and archiving data in timely manner – at the end of each shift for example.

The retention of data would also be subject to the Data Protection Act and RIPA Act if targeting individuals. Ultimately, the responsibility for following legislation and implementing best practice falls to the customer, but companies like WCCTV, who have experience with the requirements of law enforcement, are well placed to assist in initial consultations.

The national police liaison: Ian Andrew, Argyll

When developing new products the industry must fully understand user requirements as well as legislative and procedural restrictions. Guidelines prohibit constant recording of audio so use must be incident-driven.

Forward-facing screens on body-worn cameras may allow the perpetrator to see witnesses otherwise out of their view, placing that person at risk. Footage should not be reviewed at the scene, where it may be seen by others, and it must not be possible to access files if the device or memory card are lost. Storage computers or networks must be physically secured against unauthorised access or have appropriate software installed to secure and manage files.

CCTV files must be destroyed after 31 days unless required for evidential or other purposes, which must be recorded. Personnel must be allocated to comply with these guidelines or appropriate ‘back office’ management software installed.

Police operate in high-stress situations where ease of use and robustness are critical. Some suppliers still present overly complex products that have been developed with a focus on technology rather than addressing the issues.

The industry must work openly with the police as a partner rather than a supplier to reassure the police that the systems are right for them.

The IP video surveillance expert: Simon Barnes, business development manager, Genetec

Data protection and privacy have and will always be a concern in our industry. While body-worn cameras provide greater situational awareness of real-time events from officers on patrol, as well as the ability to remotely record video streams from the scene of an incident, ensuring proper chain of custody, avoiding evidence tampering and upholding corporate and personal privacy rights are equally important.

Developers are focusing more on this pressing concern, building features into video surveillance solutions to ensure that only authorised persons have access – but only when they are supposed to and for approved purposes. Cameras can be blocked from certain systems users and facial features can be masked (blurred) and “unmasked” only where there is a legitimate and documented reason for doing so.

These are merely a few examples of how technology innovators are better managing and protecting sensitive data and hopefully assuaging some people’s concerns.


The security services CEO: Peter Webster, CEO, Corps Security

I think they are an excellent idea. There has already been an indication that people change their attitudes and actions once the cameras are rolling because they know that evidence is being gathered. This is true of both members of the public and the police, who are more conscious of the way they perform their duties when they are wearing a camera.

As I understand it, data from body-worn cameras is typically stored on the camera or another body-worn data storage device. But the problem with this situation is that the wearer could be overpowered and the device stolen if the attacker felt the recorded images would incriminate them.

To prevent this situation, remotely monitored real-time data must be available, as well as a live data feed that could be sent using 4G to a remote monitoring centre, so back-up images could be retained. This is where the industry could assist the police.

The security director: Barrie Millett, acting director of health, safety, environment & resilience, E.ON UK

There are huge benefits in gaining real-time information when a police officer responds to an incident.

Much of the risk centres on how training is implemented. As a strategy their use will be limited by the amount of training given to the individuals wearing cameras.

Because it could be a double-edged sword; if officers don’t act appropriately when arresting someone then it could assist a criminal in getting off the charges. If they say something inappropriate in the heat of the moment then it could be used against them.

So it’s a really good tool with great possibilities, but it will only be as effective as the training given. You also have to understand your operational requirements – what you are trying to achieve.

The installer: Ric Martin, technical manager, Sensory Secure (Ric was interviewed by IFSEC Global about his life as an installer)

In an ideal world I wouldn’t have any issue with being recorded by CCTV 24/7 as I feel it adds security to my life. But unfortunately we don’t live in an ideal work and the data can, and does, get misused.

If the police were to wear body-worn cameras then the benefits could be great as it will provide accurate footage of any situation an officer may find themselves in, but IFSEC Global rightly brings up the question of managing data.  An officer would need to clearly indicate that they are recording a situation, such as with an LED ring around the camera, and maybe a sign on their person.

Also, the information could be gathered in a similar way to a transport system – so the images are recorded on a small loop, but then data is stored if an “emergency” button is pressed that saves the last five minutes and records the next 30 minutes, for example.

The view from across the Atlantic: Todd Morris, CEO and founder, BrickHouse Security

Body-worn cameras can save millions of pounds a year in bogus legal complaints and save the careers and pensions of good officers wrongly accused. Many officers buy these cameras with their own personal money for this reason.

However, efforts to ‘standardise’ and enforce the use of such cameras will meet both technical and cultural hurdles. If the technology is easy to use and has the required battery life and privacy features it could be a real game-changer.

It’s up to the industry to develop and improve the technology to the point it can be rolled out and managed at scale, and in a way, that is respectful of the officers and enables them to tell a few jokes while alone in a car.

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