Body Worn Video (BWV) continues to be a great success for the Met and the positive adoption by officers has led to better criminal justice outcomes and a reduction in complaints. On Monday, 15 July the pre-event buffer was extended to increase these benefits.
All Body Worn Cameras have pre-event buffering. When the camera is turned on it’s in what is called buffering (standby) mode, and is capturing video, but no audio. This video isn’t permanently saved but overwrites itself (i.e. deletes) every 60 seconds, unless the officer presses the record button. When the camera is activated to record, that previously captured buffered 60 second video (not audio) is saved and attached to the recording.
Over the last two years we have listened to officers, learning from their experiences and the pre-event buffer has repeatedly captured valuable evidence in support of criminal investigations. Its biggest value has been for spontaneous incidents where the camera has picked up the event as it’s happening, or when officers are reacting to an incident and activating their camera hasn’t been their first action.
Officers never know what they are going to be dealing with, and extending the pre-event buffer from 30 seconds to 60 seconds will mean they will capture more of the valuable evidence from spontaneous incidents.
PC Paul Sealy from South East Basic Command unit Neighbourhoods officer, said: “I was in crown court recently with four defendants for affray and possession of a knife. My 30 second pre-record was the basis of the case. I was on the lower deck of a bus without any working CCTV and the offence happened in the street in front of and beside the bus. My camera recorded it all before I even realised what was going on. A minute would have been even better.”
Since October 2016 the Met has rolled out around 22,000 Body Worn Cameras to frontline officers. They have uploaded over six million videos and share around 6,000 clips per month with the Crown Prosecution Service, when submitting case files.
Inspector James Ellis, BWV lead, said: “Body Worn Video not only helps us to support victims but prevents crime and brings more offenders to justice, our primary duties for 190 years. Our officers and their actions are now more open, transparent and accountable than ever before.
“Our experience of using the cameras has shown that people are more likely to plead guilty when they know we have captured the incident. This evidence speeds up justice, puts offenders behind bars more quickly and protects potential victims.
“Video has proven to capture events in a way that can’t be represented on paper in the same detail and the mere presence of BWV can often defuse potentially violent situations without the need for force to be used.”
Cameras are not permanently switched on to ensure officer interactions with the public are not unnecessarily impeded but members of the public are informed as soon as practical that they are being recorded.
BWV is used to record evidence for an investigation or provide transparency of an encounter. Since its introduction more than two years ago complaints against frontline officers (in those categories that may be effected by the use of BWV) have fallen by 39 per cent. There has been a 10 per cent increase in early guilty pleas.