IN 2005, the Metropolitan Police introduced a trial of body-worn cameras for police officers, a move that was quickly rolled out by forces throughout the country.
The use of body cameras, able to record the interactions of police with members of the public, was heralded as a massive step in ‘transparency’, a protection for both public and police.
No longer would police be able to ‘fit up’ innocent members of the public by falsifying accounts of their encounter with the forces of law and order.
Equally, it was held, police would be protected from malicious accusations and complaints.
This cosy view of a police force held accountable by technology has been dealt a massive blow by a BBC investigation showing the abuse and misuse of body-worn cameras by police forces across the country.
During the course of a two-year-long investigation, the BBC obtained reports of misuse from Freedom of Information requests, police sources, misconduct hearings and regulatory reports.
This investigation revealed that police officers are switching off their body-worn cameras when they use force, as well as deleting footage that incriminates them.
The BBC found over 150 camera misuse reports including ‘lost’ or deleted footage, and police officers just simply switching their cameras off when they didn’t want their actions recorded.
In cases where cameras were switched off, the officers involved frequently faced no sanctions, with the BBC reporting one force as saying the officer involved may have been ‘confused’.
The other trick was not to mark video recording as evidence meaning that they could be withheld from defence lawyers during a trial.
On top of this, the investigation found reports in seven police forces of officers sharing bodycam footage with friends or colleagues, either in person or across social media.
The cases uncovered by the BBC include images of a naked person being shared between officers on e-mail.
One of the most serious examples of footage lost, deleted or not marked as evidence, included a video filmed by Bedfordshire police of a vulnerable woman alleging she had been raped by an inspector.
Bedfordshire police would later blame this on an ‘administrative error’.
The BBC cites the case of a brother and sister prosecuted after being accused of assaulting and abusing officers at a Black Lives Matter protest in London in May 2020, to illustrate the way the police manipulate the use of bodycams.
Both the sister, Louisa, and her brother Yufial denied these accusations and maintained that it was they who were assaulted by the police.
It took a two-year long legal battle to obtain the bodycam video evidence that showed Louisa being pushed and then restrained with her head pressed into the concrete while other footage showed her brother being struck by an officer who then had to be pulled back.
Both were acquitted when the footage was finally released with the police telling the BBC it was an ‘error of disclosure’ while the judge said it seemed the prosecution had deliberately failed to disclose relevant information.
Ruth Ehrlich, head of policy and campaigns at Liberty, said: ‘This misuse and abuse of sensitive footage by the police is horrifying, but sadly for many people it’s not surprising. In recent months and years, we’ve seen time and again that officers are abusing their power, harming people and hiding from accountability behind their badges.’
In fact, the police have no need to hide behind their badges, they have the complete support of the Tory government which is relying on this force, damned as institutionally corrupt by the Casey public inquiry, to take on and smash the working class and the trade unions.
The same police that brutally attack protesters, and are shielded by public prosecutors from being called to account, are the same police force that the Tories will use against picket lines and demonstrations by workers and youth against being driven into the gutter by a bankrupt capitalist system.
The TUC must end its disgraceful silence on these class war preparations and be forced to call an immediate general strike to bring down this Tory government and bring in a workers government that will disband the police and replace the capitalist state with a workers state and socialism. This is the way forward.