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London to equip police with 20,000 body cameras by 2016

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London Mayor Boris Johnson has announced plans to equip London's Metropolitan police force with 20,000 body cameras by the end of March 2016. 

The Body Worn Video cameras (BWV) have been used by UK forces since 2005, with the London's Met introducing 1,000 BWVs in 10 of the cities boroughs in 2014, producing some 6,000 videos per month.

Under current guidelines, BWVs aren't "always on", only being used in specific front line police operations, such as "stop and search incidents, domestic violence and use of force, vehicle stops, arrest enquiries, premises searches, stop & account, safety risk to user/others and giving statutory directions".

The use of BWVs by American police services has been linked to a drop in the use of unacceptable force, along with a reduction in the number of complaints. In August of 2014, the Lib Dems pushed for an increased use of BWVs amongst British police, to help increase trust in officers - the logic being that the captured footage would help eliminate the potential for "one word against another", which could leave suspects feeling victimised by officers, should their account of an incident differ to an official report.

It also puts police on an even footing with members of the public being able to record their encounters. An increase in video footage has been argued to have the potential to both increase democracy - providing a greater quality of evidence than eye-witness accounts - but also has the potential for altered use, with footage collected by the police able to be stored as evidence for up to 31 days.

The London Policing Ethics Panel, chaired by Lord Carlile, is set to produce the UK's first report into the ethical guidelines around how officers use the cameras, due to be published this autumn.

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