​City of London Police can’t share bodycam footage: what does this mean for deaths in police custody?

It was recently discovered that the City of London Police are unable to share footage from body cameras due to the difference in software systems – alternatively, the police have to transfer footage onto DVDs which are then hand-delivered to the Crown Prosecution Service. Only the Met is able to share footage digitally with prosecutors, with officers now routinely submitting more than 3,000 clips a month.

Headed by Dr James Morgan from the London Met, it was quoted that the failure to synchronise the systems inhibited “successful policing outcomes”. Other findings from the university study recorded that the number of complaints from the public about incivility or oppressive conduct decreased by 50% during the trial period. Unfortunately, the numbers were small, with complaints down from 11 and 10 in 2014 and 2015 to five during the trial period in 2016. All but one of those five were dismissed. 

It was also found that 83 per cent of the 149 officers questioned, welcomed the introduction of cameras but several highlighted frustration that they could not share footage with the CPS.

Some police officers taking part in the report said the cameras were also useful in prosecuting minor crimes such as motorists or cyclists breaking red lights, an improvement from the past as it was often one person’s word against another’s.  But researchers found that the cameras had not led to more efficient justice – figures show only a slight increase in the number of guilty pleas submitted following their introduction.

And what implication does this have for transparency in proceedings involving deaths in police custody? The study suggested that because technology was not available to send footage to the CPS, the evidence was not routinely available in court. Following the high-profile deaths of Rashan Charles and Sarah Reed in police custody, it may prove to be difficult to reconstruct a full account of police proceedings.

Renee Kapuku