Police seeks public views on body-worn cameras

Written by Jenni Davidson on 3 February 2021 in News

Force in Scotland says process will help ‘address any ethical and community-related concerns’

Credit: West Midlands Police/CC BY-SA 2.0

Police Scotland is seeking views on the use of body-worn video (BWV) cameras by officers in Scotland.

An initial rollout of the technology to armed police is planned this year. Following that, a national plan to implement body-worn cameras to police across Scotland in the future will be considered.

Body-worn cameras have already been rolled out to forces in England and Wales and the chief constable of Police Scotland, Iain Livingstone, has described their use by armed police officers as a “pressing, critical, ethical and operational imperative”.

The cameras are intended to improve public transparency, reduce and resolve complaints, increase officer safety and reduce delays to justice, but questions have been asked around privacy rights.

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In December, the Scottish Parliament’s Sub-Committee on Policing raised concerns around transparency, privacy and a lack of public consultation on the use of body-worn cameras and drones as it launched its own consultation on the use of those technologies.

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.”

Police Scotland had committed to developing a full business case, as well as 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, before any rollout of body-worn cameras took place.

Launching the public survey, assistant chief constable Kenny MacDonald, who is leading on the introduction of BWV, said: “The chief constable has consistently expressed strong support for the greater deployment of body-worn video by Police Scotland officers and staff. Armed policing remains an area of high risk and understandable public scrutiny and as such this rollout will help improve transparency and accountability.”

He added: “The safety of our officers and staff as well as that of the public remains paramount in our decision to introduce this technology. While this is not new technology, and every other armed policing unit in the UK uses body-worn cameras, it is a significant introduction for Scottish policing and as such our public engagement survey is essential to ensuring people have a voice and it will help us gather and address any ethical and community-related concerns where possible.”

Martyn Evans, chair of the Scottish Police Authority, said: “The use of body worn video is widespread across UK policing and the benefits to effective policing such as improved officer safety, reducing and resolving complaints against officers and an increase in early guilty pleas, have been positively evaluated in the current limited use across Scotland. However, it is important that whenever new technology is adopted, that the implications are fully considered through an extensive stakeholder consultation process.”

The Police Scotland online survey runs for three weeks until 24 February.


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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