Police chief: 'No rush' for body cameras after plebgate

Peter Fahy
Image caption Sir Peter Fahy claims his "main concern" is what the public thinks of body cameras

Police forces should not rush to introduce body cameras in the wake of incidents such as the "plebgate" row, a leading officer has said.

Greater Manchester's Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy has called for a public consultation on the use of the cameras.

Sir Peter warned it would be "very hard to go backwards" once the technology was introduced.

His force has tried out the devices, which have also been used by a number of other forces.

They will also be tested by the Metropolitan Police.

'Rush into it'

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 live, Sir Peter said: "One of the dangers is that as a result of that particular incident, albeit a very serious incident, that we could rush into the use of this technology and once we've got it, it would be very hard to go backwards."

He admitted that such footage could be used to resolve complaints quickly, but questioned how members of the public would feel about their homes and children being filmed.

He said: "My main concern is, really, what do the public think about this and before we rush into it, do they understand the implications?

"It would mean that, for instance, if we got called to your house that we are filming what's going on.

"That might be a very distressing situation that you have called us to, that might be a very personal situation.

Image caption The cameras have already been tried out in parts of England and Scotland

"Would the public be concerned about what we would use the material for? Would it be kept on intelligence databases? It's that sort of debate."

Sir Peter also said there could be questions raised over when officers chose to turn their cameras on or off and the issue of police having to be filmed at work.

"The other concern is that it will get to a situation where a police officer's word will not be believed if it's not on camera.

"That's a very dangerous development as well in terms of the credibility of police officers", he said.

'Open and accountable'

The plebgate row erupted after former government chief whip Andrew Mitchell found himself in a heated confrontation with officers at Downing Street in September last year.

He later admitted having sworn, but denied using the word "plebs".

Last month, former shadow home secretary David Davis called for all officers to wear cameras and microphones to avoid this kind of dispute.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said he agreed in principle, adding: "It makes you open, it makes you accountable and if there is something said afterwards you can check."

Body-worn video was first used in Britain by Devon and Cornwall Police in 2006.

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