The UK’s Emergency Services Show is an annual opportunity for the tri-service and associated safety organisations to come together under one roof (and a car park filled with appliances) to discuss and demonstrate the latest thought and innovation in Public Safety. What is especially valuable is the opportunity to hear how technology actually affects officers on the beat, and crews responding to fires and medical emergencies. This year’s event was characterised by two distinct, yet linked technologies – body worn cameras and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). What draws both together is the ability to gather and then present video.
Body worn video (BWV) drew a lot of attention due to the number of trials taking place at the moment, not just in the UK but throughout the world. As a technology it has equal application for police, fire and ambulance services and presentations drew mixed audiences from all services. London’s Metropolitan Police has recently completed one of the largest urban trials of the technology, placing chest worn cameras on 500 officers and dog handlers in the capital. In the first 12 months BWV has delivered notable successes. Early guilty pleas have risen, as has the provision of what the police deemed to be appropriate custodial sentences, especially in cases of domestic abuse. Stuart Murrell of the Metropolitan Police presented a BWV clip of officer response to a domestic abuse case, which not only demonstrated the excellent care officers gave to the victim, but also graphically illustrated the level of violence inflicted during what was a first offence. This common assault would typically result in the assailant receiving a caution, but the visual nature of the evidence meant officers were able to secure a four month custodial sentence. As a direct result of using BWV in the past year the Metropolitan Police’s ability to secure convictions for domestic assault has risen dramatically. Despite this, Murrell is adamant that the police officer is the better source of evidence, and that the camera can never wholly replace an officer’s statement, and in any case the law precludes the filming of absolutely everything.
While there have been calls at the highest levels for “recording all contact with the public,” Murrell did comment on how BWV provides officers with an independent witness. This is important for redressing the balance where almost every member of the public potentially carries video capability and can film officers while they work. But, he was also quick to assure that any Police BWV footage which is then not deemed evidence is erased after 30 days of capture.
Privacy violation was also high on the agenda for Sean White, Assistant Chief of Police, Cleveland, who spoke of the surge in interest from police officers and other Public Safety organisations in the use of UAVs. Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) provide an affordable eye in the sky for overt policing with a focus on community protection; and covert policing, which targets drug rings, organised crime and terrorism suspects. Proposing a middle ground of affordable rotary or fixed wing vehicles with advanced camera packages, White foresees UAS ultimately falling under the control of the recently formed National Police Air Service (NPAS). In certain circumstances he saw UAS as a realistic alternative too, or flying in support of, the UK’s fleet of 23 helicopters which costs more than £130 million per year to keep in the air.
An aerial viewpoint is highly valued, especially in the search for missing persons and in support of major incidents. With accredited, responsible operators in Public Safety who respect community privacy and clearly communicate the purpose of such flights, White proposes a near future where aerial video is both accepted by the public and is sustainable, streaming live feeds and captured images to the officer on the ground. Considering tri-service applications, Murrell presented video as a critical tool for logging major events from first arrival of incident commander, providing transparency of decision making. And, with the application of Bluetooth technology advocated how this could be further enhanced by offering live feeds for remote viewing. Additionally live streamed video is highly useful for fire and ambulance crews, for supplying coroner evidence and especially for providing extra protection in case of assault, astoundingly a threat which affects ambulance crews even more than police officers.
Clearly, video has an increasingly important role to play in the delivery of Public Safety. Whether sourced from BWV, UAVs, TEDs enhanced appliances, radios or an LTE 4G device, speed of collating and assessing the value of the video and its ability to generate usable intelligence will be critical. This lies at the heart of work Motorola Solutions is now engaged in, connecting users via secure voice and data communications and enabling the delivery of real-time intelligence that enhances the safety of Police, Ambulance and Fire Officers and the members of the communities they serve.
Gary Marshall is External Communications Manager, UK and Ireland, Motorola Solutions. Gary is on LinkedIn at uk.linkedin.com/pub/gary-marshall/5/b47/91
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