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Manchester cops to strap on 3K bodycams

Footage from £2m evidence-gathering scheme to go to cloud

Just a few days after a counter-terrorism incident which involved precisely zero terrorists, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) has started to deploy 3,000 body-worn video (BWV) cameras to its coppers.

After enabling the evacuation of 75,000-seater Old Trafford on the final day of the Premier League, for what turned out to be a dummy bomb left by "absolutely devastated" security firm boss Chris Reid, a former Metropolitan Police officer, GMP has begun to roll out the BWV project in which it has invested almost £2m.

The Manchester Evening News reported that this included “£1m for the cameras and a further £855,000 for maintenance and digital storage costs over the next three years.”

The high-definition footage captured by the 3,000 BWV devices will be “kept for a month on a UK 'cloud' managed by an outside company which police bosses are confident will be secure,” MEN reported.

Officers collect their camera at the start of every shift, with any footage automatically downloaded on their return at the end of the day. Footage will be stored for 31 days unless required for evidence, in which case it can be saved for as long as required.

Recordings that do contain evidential material will be retained in line with existing legislation and best practice guidelines, The Register was informed, with the Data Protection Act and Management of Police Information programme cited. The force's press officers were unable to carry out a full enquiry regarding the legislative oversight of this project before publication.

Additional enquiries regarding the companies to whom GMP and the PCC had contracted the camera acquisition and the cloud storage had not been answered at the time of publication.

The lack of regulation specifically regarding the police's use of facial recognition technology on this footage makes it unclear whether the cloud-stored footage may be analysed for matches against existing state databases. This area may receive enhanced attention when the Home Office publishes its long-awaited Biometrics Review, which will reportedly be within a month.

It follows a story by The Register last year which revealed the Metropolitan Police in London had begun purchasing up to 30,000 body cameras as part of its ambition to become “the most transparent police force in the world”.

Today, 191 officers in Trafford have been the first to be given the new devices which will “enhance evidence gathering and help the Force to meet the demands it is facing both now and in the future,” GMP stated, with the full 3,000 frontline cops expected to be issued with cameras as part of their uniforms over the duration of 2016.

The BWV cameras will feature a flashing red light when they are active. Officers will be required to turn the cameras on at appropriate times and report that they are recording, though as Barak Ariel, criminology expert at Cambridge University, previously told The Register, the use of BWV has often been troubled as officers were “using the cameras at their discretion.”

GMP's assistant chief constable Garry Shewan said: “Body cams are a valuable evidential tool during cases while victims of domestic abuse have been saved from giving evidence because of the footage provided.”

Meanwhile, the returning Police and Crime Commissioner, Tony Lloyd said: “The challenges of modern day policing demand we embrace new technology which is why I asked GMP to develop plans to introduce body-worn videos for all frontline officers. I'm very pleased this technology will soon be seen on our streets.” ®

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