Body cameras for Sidmouth police?


- Credit: Archant

Police in Sidmouth could one day wear body cameras to record incidents on the beat – but there is a host of ethical concerns to address first.

Sergeant Andy Squires this week revealed that Devon and Cornwall Police is awaiting the results of a trial in Dorset before it considers investing in the technology, which is aimed at making officers more accountable.

He also said the two forces are working ever more closely together, but there is not yet any legislation in place for a full merger. Responding to a question from Councillor Paul Wright at Monday’s town council meeting, Sgt Squires said: “Body cams create all sorts of dilemmas. Is it recording 24/seven? At what point is it switched on? Will it record banter between officers on breaks in the police station?

“There are a lot of human rights and privacy issues that need to be addressed.

“It raises all sorts of questions that will be answered by the study in Dorset.”

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He said body cameras had been used successfully on Friday and Saturday nights in Exeter, and video evidence is used routinely in some domestic cases.

“It can have a profound effect on those in front of the camera,” added Sgt Squires.

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Asked about the Devon and Cornwall force working more closely with their Dorset colleagues, he said: “There’s no legislation in place to merge them fully – that’s got to be decided by the Home Office.

“Most forces combine resources from assistant chief constable downwards.”

The Devon and Cornwall and Dorset forces began trialling body cameras as a joint project last summer.

The aim was to provide an ‘unbiased record of what an officer has experienced’ to make the police more transparent and officers’ actions more accountable.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Wright said: “I was expecting Sgt Squires to say they wouldn’t need body cams in Sidmouth. They’re being used more and more, but we’re not in that league, thankfully.

“Police cars have cameras, some drivers and cyclists do, too. We’re moving more towards a surveillance society, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. It keeps the public safe and cuts complaints against the police.”

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