My Day with the Police
James Gilmore spent an evening with the police - catching criminals and finding out about their latest technology...
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“We’re used to gangs and stabbings here - in other boroughs it’s rarer, but we’re used to it here”.
The Metropolitan Police Service are under more scrutiny than ever and, often, they feel like they’re stuck in between a rock and a hard place with some of the, at times, life or death situations they must calculate. It can be difficult to fully understand the role of the police unless you spend time with them. So, that’s what I did.
It was a sunny afternoon in Croydon and I was in the back of a police car. The sirens were loud and we were speeding through red lights on the way to an emergency call describing an “IC3 man wearing a grey hoodie carrying a nine-inch knife in a park”. It was both thrilling, and terrifying. I hadn’t been in the car for 15 minutes yet and we were already fighting crime.
As we arrive in the park, the police turn their cameras on and start searching whilst communicating with their colleagues in the control room trying to get the latest information. The hoodie changes colour a couple of times, as does the description of the man he’s accompanied with and his location. After a few minutes, we’re back in the car trying to find the man on the streets.
This situation could have ended in one of many ways – but most of the ways would have required evidence. And that’s where the new body worn video cameras come in to play.
The Met is rolling out BWV’s (body worn video) across its whole force, and police in Croydon are one of the first boroughs to get them (it will be rolled out across other boroughs shortly). They’re a square device attached to officer’s vests which can capture video evidence during an incident.
When dealing with any incident which may require evidence from the scene, the cameras are on stand-by mode where they will record video (not audio) which self-destructs after 30 seconds – much like a more advanced Snapchat. If an officer is in a situation where they feel they may need to record for evidence, the camera beings to record continuously and has a 30-second audio buffer.
When the officers return to the Station after their patrol, they load it into the docking station, the footage is uploaded onto the server and the camera is charged.
Okay, it’s not quite James Bond spy pen – more My First Video Recorder – but it’s a giant step in the right direction. Suddenly, the police now have the option to film, close-up, incidents with members of the public which could be crucial in court. It removes the “he-said, she-said” or “it’s my word against yours” situation and provides key evidence. Justice can be served much quicker, and more confidently.
“A picture paints a thousand words, what we capture on these cameras you cannot possibly put into words”, said Acting Police Sergeant Darren Samuel whilst we were on patrol. And he’s aware that this works both ways round. Distrust in the police is at a high, partially fuelled by incidents overseas, and the police welcome the opportunity to use the cameras to bring transparency to their jobs.
The cameras won’t be used in all operations though. After trying to track down the knife-wielding man, we made our way to the home of a 20-year man who hasn’t been seen by his family for four days since going to a party on Saturday – or his friends since Monday.
Whilst searching his room, looking for evidence, the cameras were very much off. “We respect the need for privacy; sometimes it [having the cameras on] just isn’t appropriate or necessary”. Both incidents are still being investigated.
As I was being dropped off at East Croydon train station, I took a moment to reflect on the past few hours of pure chaos – a chaos that the police are all too familiar with. It was not as Ninja-Turtles as I thought it would have been, but they’re one step closer to catching The Shredder than they ever have been.