In today’s modern police force, body-worn cameras have become a ubiquitous tool, offering a transparent lens into interactions between the public and officers.
To watch some incidents which have been caught on body-worn cameras, CLICK HERE.
While the intent behind this technology is to ensure accountability, transparency, and trust within the community, an investigation by Emergency Services News into the practical implications of its use has uncovered a substantial administrative burden on front-line officers.
The Unseen Hours: Redaction and Review
A significant amount of an officer’s time is now dedicated to the meticulous, arduous and often monotonous task of reviewing and redacting body-worn camera footage prior to the footage being sent to the CPS for a charging decision.
Such tasks are not just reserved for significant incidents but appear to be a standard expectation for even minor interactions.
One officer highlighted the immersion, stating they often spend “whole shifts reviewing jobs.” Another added the stark reality: “It can take 2 full shifts to complete a faultless file… and that’s after collecting all the evidence first.”
The CPS Bottleneck?
An alarming concern arises from interactions with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The processes, described by many officers as ‘bureaucratic’, demand almost every file to be as thorough as what was considered a ‘full’ file in earlier times.
Redacting 999 calls, emails, incident reports, and crime reports over data privacy concerns has become the norm.
As one officer noted, “CPS want far too much… They need to come with us and see what the real world is like.”
When you listen to the ‘chatter’ being spoken on the thin blue line, the CPS’s distance from on-ground realities seems evident. Many officers express frustrations over the time it takes to receive charging decisions from the CPS.
And that is without officers being called up by their control rooms to deal with ‘immediate response’ calls in between compiling their arrest notes and subsequent files.
One stated, “We bend over backwards for [the] CPS… yet we are made to wait weeks and weeks for a decision.”
The Cost to Community Policing?
The community pays a price with officers tethered to their desks rather than being out on patrol to fulfil these administrative tasks.
The officer’s presence on the street becomes less frequent. The time required for administrative duties can be staggering.
An estimate provided suggests that an incident lasting only 20 minutes can take an officer approximately 2 hours and 39 minutes to process for a charging decision.
Conclusion: A Call for Streamlining
While the body-worn camera technology promises transparency and accountability, it is evident that without a systematic change, it poses a risk of diluting the essence of community policing.
Streamlining the process of reviewing, redacting, and submitting the footage, combined with the CPS re-evaluating its demands, can ensure that officers are free to perform their primary duty: keeping communities safe.
This balance is crucial in ensuring the best use of technology while safeguarding the essence of policing.
But what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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