'Lack of consistency' over Taser police bodycam use

Two police officers using Taser guns Image copyright PA
Image caption Each police force is left to decide whether officers using Tasers should also have body cameras

Police forces have been criticised for a "complete lack of consistency" over whether officers armed with Tasers are deployed with body cameras.

Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz said differing policies should "raise alarm bells", especially after the death of Dalian Atkinson.

The former Aston Villa star died after being shot with a Taser in Telford.

A Press Association survey of UK police forces found a disjointed approach to the use of body-worn video (BWV).

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Former footballer Dalian Atkinson died last month after being Tasered by police in Telford

PA found many forces had not completed a full roll-out of the use of the cameras, despite some top officers calling the equipment "vital".

A total of 28 of the country's 45 territorial forces responded to the survey.

The Home Office and National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) have said the use of the equipment, which is used to record incidents, is an "operational" decision for each force.

'Same respect'

Former footballer Mr Atkinson, 48, went into cardiac arrest on his way to hospital after being shot following an altercation last month.

A criminal investigation is under way, but it emerged the officers involved were not equipped with BWV.

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

Snapshot of police forces' use of bodycams

  • Metropolitan Police - Rolling out 22,000 cameras, including to Taser-equipped officers, by summer 2017
  • Bedfordshire Police - Equips frontline officers with body-worn video cameras (BWVs), including those who are Taser trained
  • Lincolnshire Police - In "latter stages" of rolling out the equipment to all frontline officers, which is expected to be competed by end of September
  • Devon & Cornwall Police - Says there are issues with the BWV technology and trying to fix a "data storage" problem before considering its uptake
  • West Midlands Police - In the process of issuing BWV to all response officers
  • Staffordshire Police - BWV rolled out to all uniformed officers, including those who are Taser-trained, but devices are "used on a pool issue basis"
  • Nottinghamshire Police - Plans to equip Taser officers over next few months, its current 550 BWVs are for different teams
  • North Yorkshire Police - Has so far "not invested" in the cameras and is waiting to see how the technology develops for the police service

Fabian Atkinson, nephew of the former Ipswich, Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday star, said: "If they have a weapon and they're going to discharge that weapon, then they need a camera to record that."

The force involved in the Atkinson case, West Mercia, told PA it did not routinely use BWVs but was looking into the "best option" for the use of recording devices by officers on patrol.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Keith Vaz, Labour MP for Leicester East, called for a more co-ordinated approach

Labour MP Mr Vaz called for "clear guidance" from national bodies on BWV use as well as transparency from forces.

"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," he said.

"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 College of Policing, the professional body for policing, said it was developing guidance "to increase consistency" on BWVs.

Richard Bennett, uniformed policing lead, said although forces made decisions independently, evidence from its trials suggested the bodycams could reduce the number of allegations against officers and evidence could help operational decisions.

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