Newton Aycliffe police officers will soon be fitted with body-worn cameras as part of a groundbreaking move by Durham Constabulary.
All frontline officers in the force’s area, including Special Constables and Police Community Support Officers, will be equipped with Body-Worn Video (BWV) cameras while carrying out their duties.
Durham introduced BWV devices in August 2012, initially on a trial basis to officers in Bishop Auckland.
Their use was then extended to cover response and neighbourhood officers across the force by April last year.
But the tiny cameras have proved so successful that a further 200 have now been purchased and are being issued to all those working in a public-facing role, including the volunteer force and PCSO’s.
This makes Durham one of the first forces – if not the first – in England and Wales to be extending their use across all frontline members of staff.
Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Ron HOGG, said “Issuing Body Worn Video devices to all frontline officers is an excellent, innovative practice being adopted in the constabulary.
“The effective use of these cameras will promote public reassurance, capture best evidence, prevent harm and deter people from committing crime and anti-social behaviour.
“Recordings provide independent evidence that will improve the quality of prosecution cases and reduce the reliance on victim evidence, particularly those who may be vulnerable or reluctant to attend court. Using recordings will also impact on the professionalism of the service and support the professional development of officers and staff. ‘
Chief Supt Graham Hall, who has overseen the development of the cameras, says they were proving invaluable in a variety of ways.
“They are being used to support early charging decisions by the Crown Prosecution Service as their staff can now often view the scene of an incident, hear the initial account of the victim and see any injuries caused,” he said.
“This in turn often prompts early guilty pleas from offenders, for example those captured during public order incidents where their behaviour can clearly be seen on the footage.
“And this helps to bring offenders to justice at the earliest opportunity which reduces overall costs to the criminal justice system.”
As the cameras frequently have a deterrent effect on behaviour, other benefits have included a reduction in the amount of time spent on investigating complaints against officers and additional protection against malicious complaints and physical violence.
“The BWV devices are personal issue to each officer and are relatively cheap,” added Chief Supt Hall.
“They provide excellent value for money when balanced against other models on the market which are considerably more expensive.
“The use of body cameras is proving a positive experience for officers and in the current financial climate provides the widest operational benefits for the lowest cost.
“Members of the public can be confident that this further roll-out of the cameras is about providing the best possible use of resources, reducing costs and making Durham Constabulary even more accountable to the people we serve.”
Special Constabulary Supt, Dale Checksfield, added: “The personal issue of body cameras to our volunteer Special Constables will increase our ability to support Durham Constabulary in delivering a high quality of service, protecting victims of crime and enhancing the protection of officers against malicious complaints and assault.
“In the current climate where Specials are supporting more diverse policing roles the inclusion of our members in this roll-out shows the true “one team” culture in Durham Constabulary.”