I lead the policing strand of the National Surveillance Camera Strategy for England and Wales. I’m also an Assistant Chief Constable at South Wales police and the CCTV Lead for the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).
I’ve been the NPCC lead and working with Tony Porter on his national strategy for about 10 months now. A key consideration for me around the use of CCTV in policing is to ensure that cameras protect communities rather than spy on them. The ethical use of surveillance cameras is extremely important to me, this is taken into consideration with all the work we do.
As part of my work as NPCC lead I have established a national working group with forces represented across all regions and representatives from key stakeholders such as regulators, local authorities and government departments. This working group also supports the work of Tony’s national strategy.
Where to focus
I’ve identified 4 key areas for the working group to focus its attention on:
Firstly, to look at the processes used to manage CCTV footage to ensure its standardised and fit for law enforcement purposes.
Secondly, to make sure that officers receive the right training with regard to CCTV. This will ensure individual’s rights are protected and staff are trained effectively to manage this information appropriately.
Thirdly, to make sure the partnership arrangements between the police and other organisations are in place and take account of effective, ethical working practices. Tony Gleason, who leads the local authority strand of the Commissioner’s strategy, will be blogging about this in detail in a couple of weeks.
Lastly, to look at the technology used to manage CCTV, making sure it’s fit for law enforcement purposes and is compatible now and in the future.
Ensuring best practice
With all of the above we are working across the industry looking to gain best practice at all stages of law enforcement where CCTV is used. It’s a very complicated environment with both public and private companies using CCTV as part of their business practices. There are many different systems and formats in use with new technology coming onto the market every day. Making sure that the footage captured by CCTV, can be used in investigations and played in court in the most effective way, is challenging but not impossible.
In many cases CCTV can make a difference in enabling the capture of criminals as well as protecting those that go missing that are vulnerable or in harm. Nationally I believe that the police need to get better at evidencing the value CCTV, where it has made a difference and shining a light on positive outcomes as a result of CCTV footage. This is something that we are also looking at within the working group.
Balancing privacy against protecting communities
We need to make sure that when we are using CCTV it is done in line with the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice and legislation such as the Data Protection Act 2018. So, I’m also extremely mindful of the competing demands between the right to privacy and keeping our communities safe and making sure that the information we gather is treated with due care, respect and ethically. We need to ensure that this is instilled within the processes we have in place around CCTV to maintain trust in the communities we serve. I’d be interested to hear views on the approach I’ve outlined in this blog so if you have any please add a comment in the comments section.