HUNDREDS of officers at the region’s biggest police force are to be fitted with cameras when called out to incidents in an effort to increase transparency and improve public confidence, The Yorkshire Post can reveal.
The move announced by West Yorkshire Police is part of a research project with Cambridge University and will see 160 body-worn cameras used by a number of different front-line response officers.
Head cameras are already used on occasion by officers investigating domestic violence but the new technology, which will be in place from this month, will be used much more widely.
Bosses will assess how well the cameras work in providing data and evidence to potentially be used in court before deciding whether to introduce the devices on a permanent basis around the county.
Cambridge University says the experiment, which also involves other forces in the UK and around the world, will “address important questions such as pursuing offenders, use of force, legitimacy and the relationship between the police and the community”.
Metropolitan Police officers began wearing tiny cameras on their uniform for the first time yesterday, designed to capture evidence at scenes of crime and help support prosecution cases.
The trial, thought to be the largest in the world, will see a total of 500 cameras distributed to 10 London boroughs. It follows criticism of the Met following the death 29-year-old Mark Duggan at the hands of armed officers, which sparked the 2011 riots.
West Yorkshire Police officers will also be told to contact their control room whenever they carry out a ‘stop and search’, after concerns were raised by young people and members of minority communities about the way the searches were conducted.
Information about the search provided by the officer will be put directly onto a computer system, meaning information about the incident is available to be scrutinised later.
Chief Constable Mark Gilmore said the change would “enhance our openness and accountability” and also “avoid lengthy form filling at a scene and reduces inconvenience to the public and officers”. He said: “It is as important to us as it is to the public that we know when our officers have fallen below the very high professional standards the vast majority of colleagues deliver on a daily basis.”
Bosses admit public confidence in the force has fallen since 2012 but it is hoped the plans will help by providing incontrovertible evidence about potentially sensitive incidents.
Police commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said in his ‘refreshed’ police and crime plan this week that he will “hold the Chief Constable to account to ensure stop and search activity is used appropriately, proportionately, in the pursuit of a legitimate aim and in a way that can be explained by the searching officer.”
He wrote: “Many young and minority ethnic people spoken to have told me and my staff that the way in which they have been stopped, or stopped and searched, by the police remains an issue.”
Nick Smart of the West Yorkshire Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said the plans “will reduce the number of potential complaints for officers”. He added: “It will safeguard what they are doing and will make sure people responsible for offences are prosecuted”.