The Role of Body Worn Video in Reducing Attacks on Police

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A recent article published by Police Oracle states that there were over 20,000 attacks on police officers in the financial year 2013/14 in the UK.

This equates to an average of 55 attacks every day, ranging from minor incidents without injury to those which require officers to take time off from duty to recover.

Frontline policing is known to carry risk, but could officers be better protected from harm?

The contributing factors appear to be the decline in police numbers, there are 2.4% fewer officers currently serving than the same time last year, and lack of deterrent for offenders.

Ideally officers would not need to attend incidents single crewed, the threat of attack is often reduced when officers work in pairs. Another way to increase the deterrent is to impose harsher sentences for those convicted, but getting to court can be problematic depending on the severity of the attack and available evidence.

Body Worn Video provides additional reinforcement in a number of ways, where forces are stretched and single crewed officer response to incidents is unavoidable.

In the first instance, body worn cameras have a preventative effect; the behaviour of those being recorded is often modified when they know they are being recorded. This has also been demonstrated in other frontline roles where staff work alone, such as civil enforcement and security. Recent studies of body worn video conducted by Rialto police also found that use of force by the police dropped by 60% when officers wore the cameras and complaints fell by 88%.

Secondly, capturing evidence can be difficult in the midst of an attack and accurately writing up the words, action and context following an incident is also problematic. With body worn camera equipment an independent record is captured of all parties involved, helping to establish the build up to an attack and identify those responsible.

While the rise in attacks against officers can be attributed to a number of factors; including changing attitudes towards the police, lack of deterrent and reduction in numbers on the street, technology such as body worn video can play a part in protecting officers and helping to bring offenders to justice.

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