Warning over 'lack of consistency' in Taser police wearing bodycams


A "complete lack of consistency" among police forces in the deployment of body cameras to officers armed with Tasers has been exposed in a new survey.

Despite some top officers describing the technology as "effective" and "vital" to 21st century policing, many forces have not completed a full roll-out and at least one said it has no current plan to adopt the cameras - which record what happens during incidents.

A survey by the Press Association of the UK's 45 territorial forces has revealed a disjointed approach to equipping officers with body-worn video (BWV).

A taser being aimed (Scott Heppell/PA)
(Scott Heppell/PA)

The issue has been highlighted following the death of former football star Dalian Atkinson after he was Tasered in Telford, Shropshire, on August 15.

A criminal investigation is under way, but following the 48-year-old's death it emerged that the officers involved, from West Mercia Police, had not been equipped with BWV.

Mr Atkinson's family has since called for all Taser-equipped officers to be issued with bodycams as standard.

Dalian Atkinson(Empics/PA)

Fabian Atkinson, nephew of the ex-Aston Villa player, said: "If they have a weapon and they're going to discharge that weapon, then they need a camera to record that."

However, the College of Policing said there was "no specific guidance" for issuing armed officers with bodycams, although it did issue advice on BWV use in 2014.

Both the Home Office and the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) have said the use of BWVs is an "operational" decision for each force.

But the chairman of the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz, said the "complete lack of consistency" across forces should "raise alarm bells", especially in light of Mr Atkinson's death.

Keith Vaz against a pink background (Peter Byrne/PA)
(Peter Byrne/PA)

The Labour MP for Leicester East said: "We need transparency from forces and clear guidance from national bodies, but organisations like the College of Policing are still unable to provide the leadership needed on these difficult issues.

"In the light of recent events, the Home Office must take action to ensure there is a far more co-ordinated national approach to the use of Tasers, which should be treated with the same respect as firearms.

"It isn't right that crossing an arbitrary border within the UK would present you with completely separate policies on the use of potentially deadly weapons."

The national picture has revealed a spectrum of responses by forces on the issue.

Officers pactice using tasers (Ben Birchall/PA)
(Ben Birchall/PA)

In Leicestershire, all frontline officers are equipped with cameras, while in London the Metropolitan Police are rolling out 22,000 cameras in a programme which is expected to be complete by summer 2017.

Surrey Police are reviewing use of bodycams for firearms officers, while City of London Police said they will be equipping firearms teams with the technology "before the end of the year".

That contrasts with the position of North Yorkshire Police who said that while they have used bodycams "to a limited degree" in the past, they were not currently investing in the technology - although they would keep the decision under consideration.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) will have 3,000 cameras in use by the end of the year - given to officers in neighbourhood teams, hostage and crisis negotiation, roads policing and intercept, tactical aid, and tactical dog units, and at the airport.