The Metropolitan Police is to begin buying up to 30,000 body cameras, as part of its ambition to become "the most transparent police force in the world", The Register has learned.
Stephen Deakin, interim chief technology officer at the Met, told El Reg at the police tech provider TASER Summit: "We are accelerating the procurement process at the request of the Commissioner and Deputy Mayor."
In the next couple of months, the Met will begin the process of procuring 10,000-30,000 cameras, he said. "Our ambition is to become the most transparent police in the world."
The Met has just completed a trial of 1,000 body cameras, which began following criticism of the force over the shooting of Mark Duggan by Met officers.
Deakin said the Met has had a bad reputation for a perceived lack of transparency, but with the camera pilot, the number of police complaints has gone down. The use of bodycams also led to the conviction of one malicious complainant, he said.
Stephen Goodier, national body-worn video lead officer, expects at least 30,000 cameras to be deployed across police forces in the next 12 months. His own force in Hampshire has just completed the purchase of 2,800, he told The Register. "I don't know of any police force that is not already trialling this in some form. This is the future."
Goodier said the equipment and storage costs would be fronted by the police, but the use of the technology will dramatically cut costs by speeding up the time it takes to compile evidence and bring a case to trial. "It's about taking an holistic view of the criminal justice system," he said.
Barak Ariel, criminology expert at Cambridge University, has tracked the use of body cameras across eight police forces in the UK and will publish a report on the findings in July. However, he said some of the evidence had to be disregarded as police were switching the cameras on and off.
"One large force tested 500 in one go, but that experiment failed because the police were using the cameras at their discretion," he said.
The use of bodycams has been a long time coming for the police. In 2009 an early trial by the Met got off to an inauspicious start when uniform-mounted video cams "caught fire". ®