Surveillance Camera Commissioner Annual Report
Body Camera Guidelines
The office of the surveillance camera commissioner was created in 2012 under the Protection of Freedoms Act (POFA) to aid regulation of CCTV use. Body-worn video camera (BWV) usage as surveillance hardware is also covered by the act. The office of the commissioner is charged with encouraging compliance with the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice, reviewing guidelines, and advising government on same. This is Commissioner Tony Porter's second report and can be accessed by clicking on the image above.
The 2014/15 report acknowledges that there has been a significant increase in the use of BWV in policing and adjacent sectors. In the main, analysis of police usage is positive; the forces observed exhibited proportionate, transparent and effective use of the technology. "Police forces who have been trialling the deployment of BWV have reported early success – particularly in the use of BWV in domestic violence cases where the recorded footage has contributed great evidential value in subsequent prosecutions." However cautionary notes were sounded about transparency, storage security and accessibility (along the judicial chain).
The commissioner provided clarification on his previous caution over the use of audio. Within police use at least he no longer sees a need for officers to have the ability to disable audio during recording; "Given the uses and deployment being proposed for BWV, I cannot foresee a scenario where audio would not be necessary and proportionate". The commissioner now considers audio capture essential to evidence-gathering. However this is noted with the caveat that wider users, by implication those within the private sectors, need to establish strong justification for capturing audio when filming is activated.
As manufacturers and through continuous consultation with our clients, we feel that if there is a valid and proportionate need to commence filming, audio is a critical element of any evidence captured. The vast majority of our customers are seeking to protect frontline workers at the public interface. Confrontation with the public is overwhelmingly verbal in the first instance and audio evidence is as essential as video, frequently more so in the case of verbal attacks, threats and general aggression.
In order to assist users in the wider public sector and private sectors (retail, hospitality, civil enforcement) the commissioner proposes to provide a self-assessment tool. This will provide guidance for compliance with the POFA and ensure authorities are aware aware of their obligation "to have regard for the code". Guidelines will be issued in 2015/16 to specifically assist organisations who deploy body-worn cameras on their staff.