Law through a lens: Body cameras for Staffordshire Police officers
MORE than 1,000 police officers are to be equipped with body cameras in a bid to gather vital evidence against criminals.
The technology, which will cost around £250,000, is being introduced by Staffordshire's new police and crime commissioner Matthew Ellis.
The video cameras, worn on police uniforms, would film encounters with suspected criminals, and could provide valuable evidence in court.
Staffordshire Police have 1,950 officers and 200 PCSOs. It says all frontline bobbies will be issued with body cameras including neighbourhood officers, dog handlers, armed response units, tactical support and road crime officers.
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Mr Ellis said: "I have extended it to cover special constables as well, and I'm looking to see if it would be useful for police community support officers too.
"There's very good evidence that body cameras are very good as far as added personal protection.
"It is extremely useful in cases where there's a complaint made against an officer and also in evidence-gathering. They are going to make life easier.
"There has been a trial which has involved a few officers trying the technology out and that has gone extremely well."
Mr Ellis said the cost was 'good value for money' adding: "There's a compelling argument for them. I'm surprised more forces haven't introduced them."
Several forces have introduced body-worn video cameras, but the technology is not widely used throughout the country and few have equipped all beat officers with the technology.
The Home Office gave the go-ahead for police forces in England and Wales to use headcams in 2007. Video footage recorded by officers has been used as evidence before the courts.
West Mercia Police used footage from a headcam as evidence last year in the manslaughter trial of Daniel Keeble, aged 26, of no fixed abode, and 24-year-old Peter John Marston, of Stafford. Both were convicted at Stafford Crown Court.
Andy Adams, chairman of Staffordshire Police Federation, which represents all Staffordshire's beat officers, said: "The principle of the idea, of being able to record incidents for officers' safety is fantastic, I can't argue against it."
Mr Adams said the cameras may give officers more confidence going into situations that could escalate.
But, he added: "I wouldn't like to think the cameras would be worn all the time. It should be the officer's choice when to use them.
"Some of my members will feel it is something they don't want to use."
Tom Simpson, aged 55, of Ridge Road, and secretary of Sandyford and Goldenhill Residents' Association, said: "It's a good idea, but would police officers feel comfortable with it?"
Former Staffordshire Police inspector Nigel Gunn, who left the force in 2011, said: "Police officers should have nothing to fear from body cameras. I think they would reassure the public and the police.
"Everyone was worried to death about CCTV cameras when they were brought in, but that has been an invaluable help.