Police chief urges wider use of video

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The Independent Online

Crime Correspondent

Video cameras should be fitted at all police stations to help reduce deaths in custody, beatings, false allegations of brutality, and to speed up court cases, Sir Paul Condon, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said yesterday.

His force is lobbying the Home Office to introduce changes to the law to allow more video evidence to be given in court. Another initiative Sir Paul wants to introduce is the use of "lay" observers at all stations to act as independent witnesses. If the initiatives are successful, they are expected to be copied by forces throughout Britain.

The moves follow growing concern about the number of people who have died in custody, cases of corrupt police officers, and the amount of money - about pounds 1.5m last year - the Met has to pay out in compensation for unlawful treatment.

Sir Paul also revealed yesterday that the Metropolitan Police will be launching a new crackdown on hard-drug traffickers and dealers in April, in which they will make greater use of video surveillance.

Speaking at a press conference, he argued that video cameras would protect police officers from false allegations of violence and expose the "few bad apples". Allowing video evidence in court would also cut down on bureaucracy by removing the need for lengthy transcripts of interviews.

Sir Paul said he hoped the video cameras and lay observers would help improve trust, particularly among sections of the black community. He was concerned at a growing number of alienated youths, "who seem to have little respect for the rights of other people, who seem to drift into crime, who are prepared to carry knives and some who are prepared to carry guns, almost as a mark of their street credibility".