For more than a few people out there, getting stopped by police isn't a pleasant experience, and not necessarily because some law of any size has been broken. Some actively distrust the police, these men and women given much more power than any ordinary person could ever have, whose word carries more weight simply by virtue of the office, and the potential to misuse the power in question. But technology can often prove a great equalizer, bringing power to the powerless, and that's a development that seems to be afoot in London, as the police there are now wearing cameras.
As part of the new project, 500 cameras will go out to various officers in the London Metropolitan Police service, which will hopefully—according to spokesman James Hulme—provide some help in gathering evidence. Said evidence will likely prove helpful in terms of prosecuting wrongdoing in the city. Reports from the British Security Industry Authority, meanwhile, suggest that this is really little more than a drop in the bucket, as the country has—as of last July—as many as 5.9 million closed-circuit cameras currently in operation throughout the U.K.
It may therefore serve as a somewhat distressing note to point out that that's about one surveillance camera for every 11 people in the country in the first place. That disturbing note, meanwhile, may be augmented by the suggestion that London has had its share of privacy issues already. Not so long ago, the city of London had to order a supplier of new trash cans to stop said refuse collectors from collecting data about random passersby taken from the mobile devices said passersby carried.
The cameras in question are made by Taser International, who offered up some rather encouraging tidbits about the use of said technology. About 13,500 such cameras are currently in use in the United States in places like Las Vegas and New Orleans, and in places where cameras are put to use, citizen complaints about police have dropped on average 88 percent from the times before such technology is in use. There's also a 59 percent reduction in uses of force on the part of officers, and the technology also proves useful in events like domestic violence, where those who are attacked may recant allegations after threats or emotional appeals.
The fact that there's a drop in uses of force when the cameras come on might well suggest that there are some instances of unnecessary force. After all, if only absolutely necessary uses of force were taking place before the cameras, there would be a minimal drop, if any at all, of uses of force after the cameras. It's also noteworthy to see how the citizens' complaints against police drop at an even greater rate than the use of force. It's the kind of thing that makes the citizen feel better; we invest a lot of authority into police officers, and so it's not out of line to expect greater accountability from said as well, which is provided by this body-worn surveillance.
We need a properly trained and equipped police force to handle issues as such come up. But by like token, these people with extra power and authority need extra accountability in the field. Cameras help provide just that, helping to assure that the unusual power we provide to police forces is only used in the correct manner. The move by the London police force should go a long way in making that clear.
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Edited by Maurice Nagle
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