Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
United Kingdom Privacy

London Police To Wear Video Cameras In Pilot Project 152

Posted by samzenpus
from the keeping-an-eye-on-things dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The London Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) is reportedly engaging in a year-long pilot program to determine the benefits of its police force wearing video cameras during interactions with the public. 'The pilot will include a total of 500 cameras distributed across ten city boroughs.' London joins some major U.S. cities in this endeavor to improve the quality of policing through the use of wearable cameras. Privacy advocates argue, however, that police officers having these devices on their persons is not enough: 'the efficacy of police body-mounted cameras as a crime reduction and accountability tool hinges on enforcement of good policies and procedures—including something as basic as preventing officers from being able to deactivate the cameras at their own discretion.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

London Police To Wear Video Cameras In Pilot Project

Comments Filter:
  • by mrxak (727974) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @03:15AM (#46946999)

    You can (effectively) turn any camera off. Just "accidentally" point it the wrong way, or "accidentally" cover it up with something.

    • by canthusus (463707) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @03:23AM (#46947033)

      You need to turn them on first...

      From BBC article: "The force said officers taking part in the pilot must comply with guidelines about when cameras are to be used, but that they will not be permanently switched on."

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-e... [bbc.co.uk]

      • by Zocalo (252965) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @05:24AM (#46947419) Homepage
        Being able to turn it off is fine; running a video camera continuously will eat batteries for the sake of recordings that will mostly be useless. The trick is to make sure that the camera is switched on when it is required, and it the heat of the moment I would imagine it would be very easy to genuinely forget to turn the thing on. Perhaps a very noticeable "recording light", similar to that on Google Glass, so that people interacting with the police will both be aware they are being recorded and be in a position to insist the interaction be recorded if it's currently turned off. The whole "my client alleges that he was abused during the arrest, you *do* have the recording, right?" issue should make sure the police want the cameras on as much as possible.

        The real trick will be making sure the camera is switched on for spur of the moment stuff, like where an incident happens when the officer is actually present, so perhaps some kind of automatic activation based on feedback from accelerometers and similar activity detectors is also required. If the sensors detect that the officer has started to run, there is a jolt to the camera, or some other abnormal activity, then start recording until the camera is manually disabled again.
        • by Joce640k (829181)

          That depends on how easy it is to turn them on.

          It doesn't have to be a fiddly little switch, it can be a great big button. Officers who use it every day will soon get used to hitting it whenever they go into action.

          You could even automate it - turn them on if there's a loud sound, use an accelerometer to detect when and officer starts running/fighting, etc.

          Obviously the "off" switch is a fiddly little button...

          • You could even automate it - turn them on if there's a loud sound

            A recording of the events leading up to the "loud sound" are likely far more important that what happens after.

            • by Joce640k (829181)

              Maybe the cameras could record the 30 seconds prior to being activated.

              Recording to RAM doesn't need much power.

        • by Ash Vince (602485) *

          Being able to turn it off is fine;

          No, it is not. Part of the role of these camera should be to force the Police to be constantly held account for all their actions while on duty. We had a recent incident here in the news where a UK bunch of UK soldiers shot dead an injured Afghan insurgent, the only reason it was found out though was because they made a mess of turning off one of the squaddies body cams and recorded themselves committing murder. This clearly shows the people wearing these cannot be trusted with and on off switch, that way e

          • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

            Even if it can't be turned off they will just cover it up or otherwise sabotage it. It's fairly common to see police at events like protests with their ID numbers covered so they can beat people with impunity.

            • by Joce640k (829181)

              So....maybe we can also implement some sort of system to combat that?

            • by Wycliffe (116160)

              Even if it can't be turned off they will just cover it up or otherwise sabotage it.

              I'm not sure this is as big of concern as people seem to think. In most cases if they are instructed to have it on at all times
              and "something bad happens" while their camera is off, etc.. then I think the jury, etc... is going to be very suspicious and
              will more than likely side with the victim.

        • by Immerman (2627577)

          How much battery do you really need though? Give an iPhone 20x the batteries and I bet you could record an officer's entire shift while also live-streaming the video to headquarters over the cellular network for backup, all in a package lighter than their pistol. Let the officer tag time blocks that might be evidence for a case for long-term retention (preemptively or retroactively), and keep everything else for a few weeks just in case anyone lodges a complaint, in which case the time in question likewis

          • by dave420 (699308)
            Pistol? We're talking about the UK here, where the police regularly say they don't want every constable armed. You should use a metric like "flasks of tea" or "sausage sandwiches" instead - that makes more sense.
            • by Immerman (2627577)

              Quite so, I forgot the context. It sounds like the UK is actually doing a halfway decent job keeping their police force from devolving into a bunch of thugs - hopefully this will work out wonderfully and we can see it adopted in the US.

          • by Joce640k (829181)

            How much battery do you really need though? Give an iPhone 20x the batteries and I bet you could record an officer's entire shift while also live-streaming the video to headquarters over the cellular network for backup, all in a package lighter than their pistol.

            Yeah, that'll work. I can imagine the boys in a data center having a chuckle every time the hot policewomen goes to the toilet.

            I think they should have every right to turn off their cameras, nobody should be constantly recorded.

            OTOH they should expect a full investigation if they do it when they're in action or interacting with the public.

            • by jonbryce (703250)

              A helmet cam would only show footage of the cubicle door, Not particularly interesting.

            • by Immerman (2627577)

              As others have pointed out, anyone who works in a call center, or any retail store with security cameras, is already almost perpetually recorded. Why should police officers, who are granted numerous extraordinary privileges ripe for abuse, expect any less oversight?

              But okay, let's let them turn them off (accompanied by an annoying reminder of the fact, beeping or something) - but make it a felony for them to interact with the public while in uniform unless they are recording. Or at least have it carry a p

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Threni (635302)

      And, as the police supporting the government during the Miner's Strike in the 1980's, you can simply leave it at home (in that case it was the unique ID they were supposed to wear in case - and of course this never happened - there was any accusation that they were involved in acts of illegality).

      • To have IDs to wear, they would have to have been actual police instead of the military dressed in ill fitting police uniforms.

      • If the police can't provide the video evidence for the incident, why not make it a crime?
      • The 1980s miners strike was an illegal strike - Arthur Scargill did not hold the required ballot but instead just declared a strike, which was illegal under legislation then active - so the police had every right to "support the government".

        Being non-identifiable was a safety issue with regard to the police, because it was shown on many occasions that the striking miners were not adverse to taking action against identified individuals and their families.

        • by Ash Vince (602485) *

          Being non-identifiable was a safety issue with regard to the police, because it was shown on many occasions that the striking miners were not adverse to taking action against identified individuals and their families.

          Not really. Most of the police on riot duty during the miners strike were Met officers bussed in from London or, allegedly also members of the UK armed forces so their families has sod all to fear as they were miles away. The local bobbies generally hated them and were kept well out of the way to stop them having to aggressively police their neighbours.

          Is there any single incident you can reference where the miners victimised local cops or their families in the manner you describe? If so please do.

          There wer

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          Doesn't excuse the police's behaviour. If it did they would just claim that they felt personally threatened every time. Sorry, but if you become a cop you have to accept those risks, and the only acceptable action is to try and arrest those responsible.

          Look at it another way, the police were known to hide their identity and then beat people up. Distrust on both side, each as bad as the other, resulting in violence.

      • The can disappear CCTV recordings when it shows they're lying or exposes their fuck-ups, so you can expect the same things with these recordings, should they feel its in their interests.

        Remember the CCTV footage of Jean Charles DeMenezes showing him notvaulting the styles at the underground station that contradicted the police testimony that he did?

        Unless there is rigorous policy, including real sanction for breaching those proceedures, these cameras will only show what the police find helpful to them, rega

    • Include a law that makes any cop's testimony that is not backed up by there personal camera inadmissible in court.
      • Better yet, make the law that without the camera on, the cop loses all privileges normally enjoyed by law enforcement officers. If he injures or kills anyone, he goes to jail for murder or assault like anyone else.

    • Authorities can also penalize officers who just happen to turn away from a police infraction being commited.

    • Yes, just like any law, there are loopholes in it and there will be people who exploit those loopholes, which does not necessarily mean the whole thing is going to be a waste of time.
    • If all police are going to wear cameras, I demand public outcry equivilant to Google Glass for any police officer entering a bar, going to the bathroom, or hanging out around playgrounds.

      You think I'm joking... but if I take a video on Google Glass, it's for private use. If I take a video as a camera enabled police officer, that embarassing moment is caught on police video, which can be seen by anyone with authorization... and just look at all those "authorized" videos showing up on Cops, Amazing Chases, e

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @03:47AM (#46947119)

    I think it is unlikely that police would deactivate it without good reason. Where cameras have been used they have resulted in a large reduction in complaints [bbc.co.uk] against police . If they were widely used then switching them off would be seen as suspicious if a complaint was received.

    There are some times when an officer might want to switch it off - for example when taking a toilet break or dealing with a vulnerable victim. Ideally switching on should be easy; a "one touch" operation, but switching off harder (hold two buttons for 10 seconds) so it cannot be done (or claimed to have been done) accidentally.

    • by u38cg (607297)
      Unfortunately, the default for these cameras is to be off. They will only be turned on when something the officer deems worth recording is happening.
      • by gbjbaanb (229885)

        not really - "deems worth recording" isn't really the case.

        Consider that police don't just walk around in the hope of finding bad things happening. They get sent places from the control centre, which in turn gets reports from the public via 999 calls or similar.

        So the officers will be sent to deal with an incident, and will be expected to have switched their cameras on when they arrive - and its pretty easy to see if they didn't as they'll have no recording to match to the case incident.

        • the cameras a re supposed to have a 30 seconds buffer that always records, so you get the 30 seconds before you press "Start". That, and the fact that the battery is supposed to last a whole shift, makes them a very interesting device. Where can I buy one of those?
          • by Joce640k (829181)

            Power requirements go down a LOT if you're writing to RAM instead of flash memory and not displaying anything on a video screen.

            eg. I've seen CMOS sensors that use less than 0.1W.

            • Power requirements go down a LOT if you're writing to RAM instead of flash memory and not displaying anything on a video screen.

              eg. I've seen CMOS sensors that use less than 0.1W.

              It would also seem reasonable for the 30 second prebuffer to run at a reduced frame rate to save battery.

              • by Immerman (2627577)

                I disagree - that 30s may well contain critical evidence justifying the officer's response, it would be pretty sad to have it lost due to a low-quality recording. If we're going to keep them under surveillance we should do what we can to ensure it covers their ass as well. Assuming they're acting in accordance with the law of course.

                Besides - if the camera takes 0.1W to record then it takes 0.1W - all reducing the footage quality does is reduce the amount of RAM needed as a buffer.

                • Besides - if the camera takes 0.1W to record then it takes 0.1W - all reducing the footage quality does is reduce the amount of RAM needed as a buffer.

                  Not at all. The amount of power used by CMOS hardware is basically proportional to the number of transistors that are being switched, and how frequently they are switching. So each time you capture a frame you have to:
                  - reset the sensor's pixels
                  - read the sensor's pixels
                  - amplify the signal
                  - debayer the data
                  - possibly compress the data
                  - store the data somewhere
                  Each of these steps will take a certain amount of energy. Obviously the more frequently you captur

          • by gbjbaanb (229885)

            From the manufacturer. Just say you want to evaluate one of them :)

            This is the device [revealmedia.com] most police are using in the UK.

        • Consider that police don't just walk around in the hope of finding bad things happening. They get sent places from the control centre, which in turn gets reports from the public via 999 calls or similar.

          Aside from the fact that I regularly see plenty of uniformed police officers or PCSOs patrolling on foot around the city in which I live (Norwich, UK), try going to a population centres club district and see how heavy the police presence is then - here in Norwich, its not unusual to see 50 or more police on one stretch of road (Prince of Wales Road - the main nightclub district for the city) at the same time on a friday or saturday night. This is a road I can typically walk from one end to the other in les

          • by gbjbaanb (229885)

            they're still sent to that location as part of a organised system though, not just at random which is what I meant.

            and most people would hope they're there more as a deterrent.

            • That's like saying they are sent to Norwich as part of an organised system, rather than randomly patrolling the countryside.

              They go where they are expected to be required - in general that's the population centres, and in specific that's where the population congregates at that particular time. Go to a cities shopping centre at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon and you will see a lot more police than you would at 7am on a Monday morning in exactly the same place.

              Your original comment comes across much more as if

              • by gbjbaanb (229885)

                I used to write software for the control centres. One thing I know is that there are many more calls than there are officers to deal with them.

                so no, they're not sitting in the coffee house eating doughnuts, they're permanently going from one incident to the next. The only time they're not doing this is when they come back to base to fill out the mass of paperwork between incidents.

                That;s not to say that some are sent to areas to "patrol" but these are also organised areas, the police don't stray out of the

  • by GeekWithAKnife (2717871) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @04:07AM (#46947171)

    Perhaps an unpopular opinion but I think this is overall a good thing. It will require more discipline from police and help reduce the number of unjustified police action.

    As the same time this will serve to catch criminals and is a precursor to automatic face recognition (like they have with car number plates)

    Just remember the next time you see police, you're on camera.
    • by qbast (1265706)
      If you don't see police, you are on camera as well, especially in London. But yes, automatic face recognition is coming so you will be almost fully tracked from the moment you leave your house.
      • I see the sales of fancy old-style hats surging...
      • by Anonymous Coward

        If you live in a big city then that may be true, but most towns only have a few cameras covering the high street and it's unlikely you'll find them in villages. So for most of the UK it's not true and only hype/lies. You can keep your guns and we will "settle" for lower crime rates.

        • by qbast (1265706)

          If you live in a big city then that may be true, but most towns only have a few cameras covering the high street and it's unlikely you'll find them in villages.

          That's why I mentioned 'especially in London'. Do you stop reading comment after 10 words?

          You can keep your guns and we will "settle" for lower crime rates.

          Dude, you are preaching to converted.

      • If you don't see police, you are on camera as well, especially in London. But yes, automatic face recognition is coming so you will be almost fully tracked from the moment you leave your house.

        Not that that isn't something to worry about at some point, but for the moment that's fantasy. Almost all these cameras are privately set up and recorded, and requires manually requesting and retrieving video from who owns them. They are also nearly always poor quality monochrome (see any CCTV featured on news reports). All the computing tech in the world won't help the fact that CCTV is neither centrally controlled or accessible, or of decent quality.

    • It doesn't go both ways.
      I suppose the camera will "inadvertently" be turned off anytime the cop feels like doing something unjustified.

    • by robsku (1381635)

      I'm all for this and have little problem with the so called "privacy issues", provided that the laws (and the devices) are designed properly to minimize any risk of tampered and/or missing evidence. I see much more privacy issues without this than with this, and I would also like to extend these laws to require private security firms to use this and tougher laws to deal with so called "missing tapes"/"broken camera" issues to protect the rights of civilians.

      Only fear that I have is that the "missing footage

  • Turning camera off (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bradley13 (1118935) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @04:50AM (#46947313) Homepage

    Turning a camera off - this should work the same as things like medical hotlines. For most hotlines, every call is recorded. You, as a patient, can request that the recording be turned off. Your request will be recorded, and then nothing more (at least, that's how it is supposed to work).

    It should be the same for police officers: Sure, there are times they may need to turn the camera's off, but the reason should be clear and should itself be recorded. In the absence of a justification, the camera should always run.

    • by Immerman (2627577)

      An excellent idea.

    • by Uberbah (647458)

      It should be the same for police officers: Sure, there are times they may need to turn the camera's off, but the reason should be clear and should itself be recorded. In the absence of a justification, the camera should always run.

      The problem with that is that cops are not only trained to manipulate people into agreeing to searches without warrants or interviews without lawyers, but they are free to lie to you in the process. So Detective Mackey [imdb.com] stops by your house to ask you about xyz and assures you that

      • by robsku (1381635)

        After he talks you into turning off his camera, because you're both reasonable fellows

        The police officer should not have any acceptable reason to even suggest such thing, and if a complaint was made it should count very strongly against him if he did - after all, up to the point the "talking into it" would have been recorded and any defence lawyer worth his shit should be able to use that to tear the officer a new one.

        Of course I understand the laws are rarely written perfectly (and thus they need to be ad

      • by robsku (1381635)

        ...also, your link made me (again) wonder why the officers are so heavily armed and so trigger happy in the US the first place. Here in Finland the police has to do paperwork and explain each and any shot they take, and shooting an unarmed man just for escaping would unlikely come to consideration of even the most aggressive cops in the country. The police here are known to avoid using possibly leathal force and, in fact, even them shooting a "warning shot" in the air is so rare it makes to newspaper headli

  • They had to put cameras on LA cops because they were acting like street gang thugs, Has the London police lost the professionalism that was world renown and are now acting like thugs as well?

  • What if your boss told you "I want you to wear a camera that records EVERY SECOND while you are on the clock". Would you willingly accept? In the Police Dept. I do work for we are testing body cams but only with the ability to turn them off. Why? Due to Freedom of Information that video is available to the public upon request. Think of all the Youtube moments that would give rise to, from bathrooms to discussions about possible suspects. "Always on" cameras will never be the standard for body cams.
    • What if your boss told you "I want you to wear a camera that records EVERY SECOND while you are on the clock".

      Does your work grant you great power over the average citizen? In your industry, are employees known for excessive force, falsifying evidence, committing perjury in court, and murdering the occasional innocent person? Are you likely to be merely fired if you commit a crime that would send anyone else to jail for years or even decades?

      Watched cops are less abusive cops.

    • Would you willingly accept?" - Well, one obvious advantages is that we'd know that the type of police officers who still sign up for duty, knowing they'll be held to account, will be exactly the type of person we want as a police officer - someone who intends to behave ethically and not abuse their power. So not every officer would "willingly accept", but exactly the type who had planned to commit abuses would choose instead not to accept.

      Obviously, there should be limits, like not having to wear it while

  • by ThatsNotPudding (1045640) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @07:47AM (#46947859)
    "The London Met Police are reporting a sudden outbreak of vandals with tiny cans of spray paint, waggishly obscuring the copper cams at the worst possible moment."
  • Now they have thousands of mobile cameras aimed at the civilians recording everything in sight .. nice job .. Yaaaay
    Orwell was an optimist .. we're way past his worst nightmare.

After an instrument has been assembled, extra components will be found on the bench.

Working...