Police officers in London will start wearing cameras on their uniforms as part of a one-year pilot scheme that hopes to boost transparency and speed convictions in the capital.
A total of 500 cameras will be distributed across 10 London boroughs beginning with Camden. Further trials will be carried out by the 31,000-strong London Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) in Barnet, Bexley, Bromley, Brent, Croydon, Ealing, Havering, Hillingdon and Lewisham.
"Video captures events in a way that can't be represented on paper in the same detail, and it has been shown the mere presence of this type of video can often defuse potentially violent situations without the need for force to be used,” said Met commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe.
"Our experience of using cameras already shows that people are more likely to plead guilty when they know we have captured the incident. That speeds up justice, puts offenders behind bars more quickly and protects potential victims.”
The Met has been criticised following the death of 29-year-old Mark Duggan at the hands of armed officers. Mr Duggan’s death in August 2011 sparked riots that spread across the country while an inquest this year declaring his killing lawful.
Body cameras were first used in the UK by Devon and Cornwall police in 2006 and recent trial in Bedfordshire that began in June 2013 was declared a success, offering ‘vast benefits’ and ‘discouraging unruly behaviour’.
The cameras purchased by the Met are small, battery-operated devices built by American manufacturers of electroshock guns Taser International. The Axon devices can be worn on the shoulder and record wide-angle, full colour footage.
A red light shows when the cameras are recording and Taser say their devices offer “unparalleled low-light capabilities”. Recorded video is automatically uploaded to the cloud and accessed via Evidence.com, which Taser describe as a “a web-based computerized storage and management system.”
The cameras will not be permanently switched on and officers will be given specific guidelines for their use - such as during a stop-and-search or when approaching any potentially ongoing crime.
Any footage taken will be stored for a month unless it is required as evidence in a case, although members of the public alleging police misconduct can request that it's kept for longer.
Officers will be expected to announce when they are using the cameras and a 30-second buffer is constantly being prerecorded so that information is not lost if an officer is late to the device on.
In the US similar cameras have already been tested in cities including Boston and Los Angeles but Taser say that the London scheme will be the largest urban pilot anywhere in the world.
The Met has stressed that that the tests are to find out "how to do it, not whether to do it," and that camera-wearing police are an inevitability in London.