Consultation to examine police use of drones and body-worn video

Written by Jenni Davidson on 18 December 2020 in News

Scottish Parliamentary committee invites views from the public

Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Archive/PA Images

The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Sub-Committee on Policing is calling for views on Police Scotland’s use of drones and body-worn video cameras.

This is in light of privacy concerns and procedural questions the sub-committee has on the rollout of both these systems.

Police Scotland currently has three remotely piloted aircraft systems, or drones, based in Aberdeen, Inverness and Glasgow.

The two drones in north of Scotland were intended mainly used to help in missing person investigations, some of which require air support because of the nature of the terrain, while the third, in Glasgow, was primarily for training purposes.

However, a report submitted to the Scottish Police Authority’s (SPA) Policing Performance Committee in November indicated that the drones had been used in both the north of Scotland and Glasgow and the surrounding areas for purposes other than searching for missing persons, and that Police Scotland had not sought the authority of the SPA to do so.

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These operations included surveillance of young people at Troon beach to determine if there was any anti-social behaviour going on and surveillance of a Greenpeace protest on an oil rig in the Cromarty Firth.

While the report indicated that feedback from internal stakeholders and the public has been overwhelmingly positive about use of the technology, it did not include an evaluation of best value, privacy, human rights and ethical assessments.

Police Scotland intends to introduce the use of body worn video cameras for police officers shortly and is seeking funding for that in the next financial year.

The force had previously indicated to the committee that a full business case would be developed, as well as a number of other measures, such as a public consultation, equality and public impact assessments, and an evaluation of the areas in which the equipment might be used, ahead of any rollout.

Sub-committee convener John Finnie said: “While technology undoubtedly has a place in policing, the gung ho manner in which Police Scotland appears to introduce and roll out new kit has caused us some concern. Privacy is a fundamental right, and public confidence is key to policing. We want to ensure Police Scotland is not undermining these through a lack of transparency and due process when introducing new gadgets.

“So, ahead of hearing evidence from them and the Scottish Police Authority, we are giving policing bodies, rights campaigners, and anyone who wishes to have their say an opportunity to share their views with the sub-committee.”

Views can be submitted online up to 11 January.

An evidence session on the subject is due to be held on Monday 18 January.


About the author

Jenni Davidson is a journalist at PublicTechnology sister publication Holyrood, where a version of this story first appeared. She tweets as @HolyroodJenni.


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