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Guidelines for Police Use of Body Worn Video

Body worn cameras, as you well know, are recording devices designed to be worn on a law enforcement officers uniform (as well as security personnel, fire & rescue service officials, local government, medical staff and more). 

In the case of law enforcement, body cameras provide an audio visual record of events from the officers perspective. High resolution images provide a clear view of individuals and are suite to running video analytics software such as facial recognition. Microphones may be sensitive enough to capture not only the sounds associated with the situation itself, but also ambient sound - possibly including conversations of bystanders. 

The Police and Crime Directorate (UK) have produced a document which sets forth guidelines for the correct, legal use of body worn cameras by police. Click here to download the document. 


Overview Guidance for the Police Use of Body Worn Video Devices

  • Body worn cameras may be small, but they are not to be worn or used in a hidden or covert manner. 
  • The use of body worn cameras should be clearly advertised, when possible, before commencing recording. 
  • Body worn cameras should be used with reasonable discretion (e.g. a member of the public asking general questions would not expect to be recorded - if the camera is switched on the officer should inform the person).
  • With regard to the retention of footage that will not be used as evidence, it is the data controllers responsibility to devise a flexible policy that takes into account the ongoing relevance of different types of footage. 
  • Body worn video recordings should only be made in situations where the body worn camera wearer would previously have made a written record of the encounter. 
  • Recordings should commence at the start of any deployment to an incident and should continue uninterrupted until the incident has concluded. 
  • Recordings should not be made of general patrolling duties unless this is part of a specific operation (e.g. public order duties at football matches). 
  • All recordings must be securely held in accordance with force procedures. Access to recordings must be controlled and only persons having the 'operational need' to view specific incidents may view them. 
  • All footage recorded by the body worn camera must also be retained in accordance with personal data guidelines. Non-evidential recordings must be disposed of after a maximum on 31 days (as per ACPO guidelines).
  • A record must be made of the destruction of any non-evidential recording. 
  • Prior to disposal, all reasonable steps must have been taken to ensure that the images are not required as evidence in any case under investigation. 

This is just an outline of the guidelines for the correct use of body-worn video recordings in law enforcement. Download the Police and Crime Standards Directorate document here.