Police 'headcams' get go-ahead

KIT reminiscent of science fiction films looks set to be handed to police across Suffolk in a bid to gather stronger evidence.

KIT reminiscent of science fiction films looks set to be handed to police across Suffolk in a bid to gather stronger evidence.

Officers in Suffolk are to be issued with head-mounted cameras first designed for adrenaline junkies to capture their skateboarding and bike stunts.

The tiny cameras, known as headcams, are worn on the side of the officer's head or helmet to record what they see and hear as they patrol.

The Home Office provided £3 million funding across all forces to trial these cameras, five of which were tested in Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill, Newmarket and Eye between September and November 2007.

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They were trialled by officers patrolling town centres during busy evenings, specifically focusing on anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse, and officer training.

Sgt Melanie Johnston, project co-ordinator, said: “Firstly we wanted to see if the cameras were useful in the prevention and detection of crime.

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“Officers received positive comments from people who saw them out and about with the headcams on, and we feel that they do provide an extra reassurance for the public. I think the public is au fait with being filmed and people aren't really bothered with being filmed.

“The cameras also proved invaluable in several cases, where offenders could instantly see they'd been caught on camera committing a crime. Officers have also been able to submit footage as evidence in some cases, and depending on the plea this may end up being viewed in court.”

She added: “In one case we had a domestic violence offender who was found guilty, despite the victim refusing to go to court to give evidence. Her injuries and initial account were captured on the headcam and used in evidence, and the male was convicted.

“We also wanted to find out which headcam was best for our needs - how durable they were to use on patrol, how comfortable they were to wear, how long the batteries lasted, how easy they were to use and how clear their image and sound quality were.

“All officers who used the cameras submitted feedback to help us choose which model to purchase for the rest of the force.”

From this week, 70 cameras - worth £55,000 - will be used across Suffolk.

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