Council seeks views on use of body cameras

29 April 2016

Cheshire West and Chester Council is asking residents for their views on the use of body cameras.

The Council’s Civil Enforcement Officers (CEOs) will start using Body Wearable Video Cameras (BWVCs) across the borough during the summer.

The Council’s CEOs mainly enforce parking restrictions, although they are also sometimes involved in other enforcement work, including Blue Badge fraud.

A small number of cameras are already occasionally used by other Council officers who enforce criminal legislation (eg, littering and dog fouling).

CEOs are particularly at risk of verbal abuse and occasionally even physical assault because of the nature of the work they do. They also often work alone. CEOs are sometimes approached by individuals asking for help or they witness incidents involving third parties.

Studies have shown that the use of body cameras actually prevent incidents escalating, as they encourage people to moderate their behaviour and deter abuse and aggression. They also provide evidence of any abuse or aggression that has taken place.

It is hoped that the use of the cameras will assist in reinforcing the public’s confidence in the Council’s officers and in its investigation of complaints about officers by improving transparency and accountability.

The Council is asking for comments on the use of the cameras during an eight week consultation and will be conducting several focus groups to ask people’s views at locations across the borough.

Body cameras have been in use in the UK since 2005 and are now used by many police forces, as well as by councils and the ambulance service.

All footage obtained will be kept on a secure system and, if not needed for evidence, will be deleted after 31 days.

Councillor Mark Henesy, Cabinet Member for Environment and Community, said: “The Council is committed to the principle that no member of the public should be recorded by a body camera without being fully aware that it is taking place.

“The cameras will not be on all the time and our officers will tell individuals when they are recording and when they are about to switch off the camera.

“It is our belief that to have the cameras ‘always on’ would put people off speaking to our officers; we don’t want that to happen. They often help with other issues when they are out and about, like giving directions to visitors who are lost.

“Residents attending our focus groups, as part of this consultation, will hear about a number of case studies and situations where the use of cameras was beneficial to all parties.”

An eight week consultation to canvass people’s views on the use of body cameras will begin on 29 April and run until 24 June 2016. To take part, visit the council’s website: www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk/bodycams
 
How the cameras will look.  One of the council’s CEO wearing a body camera - the camera is contained in an ID badge-type casing.
How the cameras will look.  One of the council’s CEO wearing a body camera - the camera is contained in an ID badge-type casing.

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