Interim findings on the use of body-worn video (BWV) across a borough in Hampshire have shown high levels of public support for their use and benefits to frontline policing.
Independent researchers from the University of Portsmouth's Institute of Criminal Justice Studies are evaluating the impact of personal-issue BWV across the Isle of Wight. In addition, they are looking at public perception of the use of cameras on police. Their findings already show that a high percentage of those surveyed on the Isle of Wight believe the use of BWV technology will help the police to be more efficient: at least 90 per cent thought that cameras would help gather evidence, identify criminals and increase the likelihood of a conviction.
The University of Portsmouth evaluation will establish whether BWV has an impact on selected crimes and anti-social behaviour, complaints against police, and the number of guilty pleas entered. In addition, officers' views on the use of BWV will be collected, and qualitative research will suggest ways in which cameras can be embedded more effectively in policing.
The results of this local pilot evaluation, and those under way in other areas, will help inform the overall body of evidence on whether BWV technology can make a difference to transparency, evidence gathering and public confidence.
Dr Paul Quinton, Principal Research Officer at the College, says around 20 forces in England and Wales have started issuing officers with cameras:
"The College aims to collaborate with forces on a range of studies that seek to strengthen the evidence base, inform force decisions on roll out, and shape national guidance.
"In theory, this technology could improve the quantity, quality and independence of the evidence they capture, and increase police transparency. There is, however, relatively limited evidence on BWV's use and effectiveness. Several local pilots have been carried out that highlight the potential advantages of BWV, but none have provided direct evidence of their impact.
"A recent randomised controlled trial carried out in the US has shown that BWV can reduce police use of force and public complaints. We now need to build the UK evidence base."
The College is doing this by working with Essex and the Metropolitan Police on randomised control trials to test the effectiveness of BWV. These specific trials allow for more conclusive evaluation around the impact of the cameras' use.
Our researchers plan to carry out further studies with a small number of forces that have already issued BWV cameras, to develop a better understanding of how and when officers reportedly use the technology and its perceived impact on their discretion, working practices and environment, and interactions with the public.
The research will involve face-to-face interviews and focus groups with frontline officers and those involved in case progression, first line supervisors and project managers. Where possible, it will also involve a small number of observations of police patrol. Results are expected to be published in the summer after academic peer review.
Once the College-supported trials are up and running, we will share the research designs and data collection instruments with interested forces to enable them to replicate the approach.
In the longer term, the College will work to draw together the results of all the trials and quasi-experiments carried out in England and Wales to give a national picture of BWV's effectiveness.