26 Aug 2007

Isn't Technology Wonderful?

Isn’t Technology Wonderful? - In a moment of thought and reflection about changes in the job, whilst enjoying my pot of tea and a fag, I got to thinking about how technology is helping the police? And, whilst thumbing through a local paper I found, Police to wear video cameras in battle against street crime – Coppers are going hi-tech in the war against crime - by wearing video cameras on their heads to film incidents as they unfold. (York Press 200807).

Amazing thought I, this new line of kit called ‘headcams’ apparently, are going to be North Yorkshire Police's latest weapon to tackle antisocial behaviour”. The media hack went on to report the comments of the local A/Inspector, who obviously extolled the virtues of these modern gizmos (in true ‘grasp the sound bite’ fashion)… “The use of headcams by North Yorkshire Police has the ability to positively impact on our big five objectives”. Now I can partly agree with the; "headcams will bring offenders to justice by producing compelling evidence for prosecution files” but surely, it’s the cop that ‘brings the offender to justice’? After all, the gizmo is just an electronic visual pocket book! And yes it will “reduce the challenge to officers in court and decrease the number of malicious complaints against police” however, there was a time (prior to media and film intervention) when the public and the legal system, actually believed and trusted the British Bobby!

This ‘new’ gizmo was ‘successfully trialled in Plymouth’ during 2004/05 and in July this year The Home Office announced: More police head cameras to help fight crime. Apparently they would ‘provide police with an extra £3 million to fund a national roll-out of revolutionary head camera technology’. At the time Tony McNulty was ‘delighted to announce’ the extra funding. It’s just a pity his government isn’t as enamored about paying cops a reasonable wage but that’s another story!

The problem here that repeats itself far too often is; proper funding of the police service and the provision of the latest tools is actually an ongoing and necessary expense. It is not sufficient that government and ‘partner agencies’ carry on with their mistaken belief that, things will get better if we drop the cops a ‘donation’ now and then, just to suit current public opinion or political direction.

Tony McNulty also said; “clear evidence provided by head camera footage means that offenders have less opportunity to deny their involvement, leading to less paperwork for the police”. It might reduce the written description about the offence in the officer’s statement but I’ll bet you any money, there will be numerous statistical return forms to complete so the force can report on their success to the Home Office!

Continuing with my amazement I decided to Google the subject and, as suspected, I found this ‘latest police innovation’ is hardly ‘new’ at all. Apart from the Devon & Cornwall Home Office trial in 2006 several other forces had already used the gizmo?

  • Police to get 'RoboCop' cameras - police in London are to be equipped with head-mounted cameras (CnetUK 201106).
  • And three years earlier; Helmets housing concealed cameras are to be worn by police in Sussex (BBC 051203).

  • And still earlier; Police on patrol in the West Midlands are road testing cameras in their cycle helmets to capture crimes on film (BBC 110902).

And there was a load more…

Shouldn’t complain I suppose, at least the roll out is gathering at a pace quicker than Airwave Radio did. Airwave or TETRA, was a technology that although reported as flawed in some respects, was actually developed back in the early to mid eighties announced in the mid nineties and is only now available to all UK police forces! Devon & Cornwall Constabulary also reported this one as ‘new’ in 2003! And, I suupose it would be too much to ask for the tecno geeks to wander too far north of Watford after all, the uphill climb would be too much for their blood preasure to endure! Must admit having Airwave is better than having to extract the antenna from my nose each time I went to use my Pye PF1 Pocket phone though.

Right, where’s my hard boiled egg gone???

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