The College of Policing recently compiled a report (read the full report here) on the use of body worn video and the impact it has on criminal justice outcomes for domestic abuse. In coalition with Essex Police, the 4 month randomised controlled trial was completed by a total of 308 officers; 70 of which were randomly allocated cameras for use, the rest remained without to act as a control group.
Aims of the trial were outlined as:
– Process for operational use, such as when to switch the camera on and off and the notification to give to the public when using the cameras;
– Statement taking process and disclosure considerations;
– Practical use of the cameras themselves; and
– Uploading, retention, storage issues and the back office process for providing footage to the Crown Prosecution Service.
Next, it is noted “Officers in Essex are usually single crewed, which means that they will, for normal duties, attend incidents on their own. Therefore, to get a distribution, which reduced the likelihood of officers wearing cameras having contact with each other, and to reflect the range of shifts and locations that officers in Essex work in, the sample was stratified or grouped by shift and location. The process involved assigning each officer a random number and re-ordering the list of officers from smallest random number to largest, to remove any bias in the order. Officers were then grouped by location and shift. The new list was then used to select every Nth officer, with a random number dictating the first officer to be selected. To give the largest control group possible, and to increase the likelihood of detecting any impact of the cameras, the control group was created from all the remaining officers who were not allocated to wear a camera.”
The assignment of cameras was designed to allow each officer to have equal opportunity to be randomly selected to wear one, as shown by key demographic results such as a female portion of the treatment group at 22% and control 23%. Additionally the control group had cameras issued to 30% under the age of 30, and 36% respectively (the control group had a slightly lower number of under 30’s). Furthermore self-evaluation of the report is key to understanding this trial and is explained as such below.
“The intention of the trial was to test the impact of BWV, but low usage of the cameras by officers may have had a large effect on the CJ outcomes explored in this trial. It was impossible to record which officers allocated to treatment groups attended incidents without using cameras, because their equipment was broken or they chose not to wear them”
Continued, “This trial shows an impact of body worn video in its complex ‘real world’ setting that enables an understanding of in what circumstances it is effective. This study was, therefore, an effectiveness study, not a study of how BWV could work in ideal settings – which would need translating to the context it is applied to. This is important because interventions that lead to significant improvements in ‘ideal’ settings do not necessarily deliver the same results in the ‘real world’. Therefore results of this trial are a more accurate picture of the potential impact of implementation of BWV in other forces.”
Officers involved in the pilot reported positive results, with many in support of the use of body worn video, with one officer commenting
“… It’s a good tool to have because it’s captured something that otherwise you would have to write a lot in a statement about. Especially, even just, simple things like, you know, the layout of the house, or, you know, sort of, first accounts from people it’s good for. And you can record footage of damage that’s occurred. It’s… it is a useful bit of kit.”