Police forces around the UK have been using video cameras attached to their uniform for some time now, but more than 300 faults have been logged by serving officers in Aberdeen, where the cameras were originally trialled back in 2012. These cameras were then rolled out throughout the whole of Aberdeenshire and Moray. BBC Scotland obtained data showing that fault logging had doubled over a three-year period. This is causing concern, with implications for the police service, criminal justice system and even the public.
IT at the root of the problem
Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Mark Williams has said that while 300 faults may seem high, this figure should be put in perspective, with more than 200,000 deployments of body worn cameras during the same period under discussion. He also went on to say that the faults were not with the cameras themselves but with the IT supporting them. ACC Williams said that these cameras have brought many benefits to policing in Aberdeenshire. Officer safety has improved with the introduction of cameras, and it has also meant that fewer officers are having to attend court, taking them away from their day-to-day policing duties. The benefit to victims is also of paramount importance, with fewer being called to give evidence, which can be very stressful.
The future of video cameras
The chairwoman of the Scottish Police Federation, which represents police officers to the rank of Chief Inspector, is concerned that the introduction of cameras is putting an enormous strain on the current policing IT infrastructure. She said that the budget for large-scale investment would be difficult in the current economic climate not just for the police service but for the criminal justice system as a whole. She pointed out that there would be no point in the police gathering video evidence if it could then not be processed and used to bring successful prosecutions.
With the police force in Scotland considering the way forward with its Policing 2026 strategy, it remains to be seen what part video cameras will play in the day-to-day policing of the streets of Aberdeen and all across Scotland.