An elite counter-terrorism team came under criticism for not wearing body cameras during a raid in Willesden where a 21-year-old woman was shot. The lack of video evidence in the raid, which took place in May 2017, has led to difficulties in establishing whether or not the woman was armed when she was shot. Her solicitor, Imran Khan, has voiced concerns over firearms officers not being equipped with video recording equipment.
The Benefits of Body Worn Cameras
Khan said that body cameras should be worn for the protection of the officers and the public. Indeed, the Metropolitan Police want as many officers as possible wearing body cameras. They rolled out body cameras to 22,000 front-line officers in October 2016, after four police forces in the UK and two police departments in the US took part in a year-long trial.
The results showed complaints against police officers were reduced by 93% and suggested that the presence of video recording equipment caused both police officers and members of the public to modify their behaviour. The findings also showed an increased speed of conviction due to the impartial evidence given through the video.
Legal Protection and Guidelines
However, along with the advantages come concerns about recording video footage. Just as a code of practice for surveillance cameras was introduced in 2013, there is body worn camera legislation which cameras and their wearers must conform to. Ironically, it could have been one of these guidelines that prevented the counter-terrorism unit from wearing the cameras in the Willesden raid.
Body cameras don’t record all the time – they are switched on after the officer has notified the public that they are being recorded. The cameras are large and visible – even more so when recording, as they flash a red light and make a noise when they’re active, and so can only be used by officers taking part in overt operations. Since this particular raid was a covert operation, they couldn’t use any video recording equipment.
The Metropolitan Police recognise the huge benefit body cameras can have for both police officers and members of the public and have said in a statement that work is going on to find a solution that will allow officers in covert operations like the Willesden raid to wear body cameras in the future.