Council officials given body-worn cameras

UK councils are, much like the police and private security firms, having their employees who deal with the public, especially in an enforcement capacity, wear body cameras. When it comes to the police, most people can see the benefits without being told, but do we really want everyone associated with the government or businesses who can afford it to be recording our every move?

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The ever-increasing surveillance state?

The biggest objection to body worn cameras is privacy, with officials being described in some places as snoops, and stories about 80-year-old women being fined for pouring the contents of a cup into a drain before throwing the cup away. But how realistic are these concerns?

First, the scare story of the pensioner being fined for littering when it obviously isn’t appropriate. The real takeaway here is that some people with power, in all walks of life, are overzealous, and this was no exception. The council even formally apologised and, of course, dropped the fine. With or without worn cameras, the police are out policing, and the councils are out enforcing their own laws.

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Benefits to councils and private business

The truth is that there are substantial benefits to enforcement, or any public-facing official recording their interactions. Council enforcement personnel, even social workers, face abuse and assault in doing their jobs, with little in the way of proof, protection, or recourse. Even if they report it, it will be their word against someone else’s. The same goes for issuing fines, as if they are contested, it is simply one person’s word against another.

There is a reason why police and private security personnel, such as those working for, are issued a body worn camera, and it is usually safety, not only for them but for those they interact with. For example, police body worn cameras reduced complaints against officers by 93% in the 12 months after their introduction, and this is a combination of two factors -those interacting with the police knowing that they are being recorded, and the police knowing they are being recorded, so everybody has to act reasonably.

Body cameras are far from a surveillance state overreach, but actually ensure the safety and reasonable action in everyone involved in what are, by their very nature, confrontational and potentially volatile situations.

Richard Anderson


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