POLICE are to be kitted out with video cameras attached to their uniforms when they respond to 999 calls.
The devices are designed to capture evidence at crime scenes, including ongoing incidents, which can then be used in court.
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They are also intended to promote public reassurance and improve officer’s safety.
Lancashire Constabulary said the devices would be used across the whole force area after a successful pilot scheme.
It follows the introduction of the devices in other parts of the country this year, including London’s Metropolitan Police in May.
Police said video footage was much more effective in securing convictions than verbal accounts, which can be challenged in court.
But a director of civil liberties charity Big Brother Watch said there were concerns over privacy where officers were filming in public.
Insp Mark Baines said: “Police forces across the country have already embraced body-worn cameras and have identified the potential benefits of their use.
“Here in East Lancashire I hope that the wider use of the cameras will promote public reassurance, capture best evidence, prevent harm and deter people from committing crime and anti-social behaviour.
“The cameras can be used to capture evidence of criminal behaviour that can help to ‘set the scene’ for a court at a later date and reduce reliance on victim evidence, particularly those who may be vulnerable and reluctant to attend court.
“By capturing this evidence, officers should be able to spend less time writing statements and completing paperwork at the station, which in turn will allow them to spend more time patrolling and responding to incidents in the community.”
The force has already piloted the scheme using cameras during a small number of operations, and there are a number of ongoing cases where evidence obtained from the cameras has proved crucial.
Now 150 cameras have been distributed to immediate response teams, who react to emergency calls.
Uniformed officers will be specially trained to wear the cameras and strict guidelines will be in place to ensure the devices are used correctly, police said.
The cameras will not be permanently switched on and the public will be informed that they are being recorded.
At the end of an officer’s shift, all recordings will be uploaded to a secure server and wiped from the camera.
The images will be deleted after 30 days unless they are required for evidential purposes.
Chairwoman of the Lancashire Police Federation Rachel Baines welcomed the move.
She said: “I think this is really positive and gives a lot of added protection for the public and the officer.
“Using these cameras means the best possible evidence can be achieved.
“Where there are privacy concerns, officers will have to use their discretion when activating the cameras.”
Emma Carr, director of Big Brother Watch, said people must be made aware they are being filmed.
She said: “No-one should be subjected to this sort of surveillance by Lancashire Constabulary without being fully aware it is taking place and how they can access a copy for themselves.
“If these cameras are implemented properly, particularly with regard to whether officers are able to access the memory cards or tamper with the footage in another way, there is potential for this to improve accountability of the force.”
The use of the cameras is to be reviewed after three months with the potential of more cameras being used across the county.