State of the art body worn video cameras are to be given to West Yorkshire Police officers as the drive to modernise policing continues.
The force today confirmed a contract had been agreed that will see officers and staff supplied with new kit.
It comes as a result of a £2m investment by the county’s police and crime commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, which was first announced last year.
Assistant Chief Constable Andy Battle said: “These devices will undoubtedly play a crucial role in the future of policing and members of the public can expect to see them routinely worn as part of our daily business. Their introduction marks a sea change in the way we are able to go about our work, ensuring the most vulnerable remain safe and feel safe.
“It represents a further innovation for the force following the introduction of hand held devices, which enable officers to conduct work online and spend more time in communities.”
The force was one of 30 worldwide to sign up to a Cambridge University study into the benefits of body worn cameras in 2014.
It’s a win win in terms of officer safety and gathering evidence.West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Nick Smart
Officers working in the Bradford district were the first to pilot the devices and a phased roll out across the whole county will now begin.
The cameras, which can be attached to the torso or the helmet, are designed to capture evidence at scenes of crime and help support prosecution cases.
Asst Chief Con Battle said the earlier study, which involved various models of camera, found they held some significant and tangible benefits.
“They have the potential to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system, further improving integrity and the corroboration of evidence by acting as an ‘independent witness’,” he said.
“Likewise, they have shown to lead to an increase in early guilty pleas, which would mean a reduction in the need for victims, witnesses and the police in West Yorkshire to attend Court.”
The initial investment by the police and crime commissioner from a ‘Transformation Fund’ will pay for the kit, with the running costs in future years to be picked up by the force.
Mr Burns-Williamson said: “I have promised to put victims of crime, in particular the most vulnerable first, and the use of body worn cameras provides increased support to victims and witnesses and reduces the number of victims required to attend court.
“Their use also means increased benefits for police accountability and transparency, which I believe will lead to greater confidence in the police all round.”
He said it would improve evidence gathering, lead to better outcomes, increase protection for officers and ensure public complaints could be quickly resolved.
He added: “It’s another significant step forward for the police in West Yorkshire and I will look forward to seeing the results as the cameras are rolled out across the county.”
The rollout of body worn cameras across the force has been welcomed by officers.
West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Nick Smart said: “It’s a win win in terms of officer safety and gathering evidence. It’s open and transparent.
“They say a picture tells 1,000 words. When you can play that video in court it really gives the context.
“We think it will protect officers, particularly from malicious complaints. We think it will also reduce the number of assaults on officers.
“We really think it’s the future. We do support the rollout and welcome it.”