A trial of police officers wearing body cameras starts today, as the Metropolitan Police runs a large-scale pilot to see if cameras should be rolled out to wider use.
500 cameras are being distributed over 10 boroughs: Barnet, Bexley, Bromley, Brent, Camden, Croydon, Ealing, Havering, Hillingdon and Lewisham. Camden is the first to get the devices, which will be given to two response teams in each borough when they answer 999 calls. Cameras won't record all the time and we, the public, have to be told when they're being switched on.
The idea is to gather evidence in cases like domestic abuse and public order offences but could also be used during stop and search, which could cut down on police abusing that power to target minorities. Armed police — who faced calls for body-worn cameras after the Mark Duggan trial — will start trialling cameras later in the year. Images will be kept for 31 days unless needed as evidence.
Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said:
"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.
I believe it will also show our officers at their best, dealing with difficult and dangerous situations every day but it will also provide clearer evidence when it's been alleged that we got things wrong. That has to be in both our own and the public's interest."
Hopefully officers will remember that, while filming us, it's perfectly legal for us to film them back.
Photo by Ch@rTy from the Londonist Flickr pool