More than 500 armed officers to have body cameras for COP26

Police Scotland's deputy chief constable said the force was 'well behind the curve' on the technology.

More than 500 armed officers to have body cameras for COP26 iStock
Police Scotland is the only force in the UK not to supply body-worn video to armed police.

More than 500 armed police officers will be equipped with body-worn video cameras ahead of the climate change summit in Glasgow.

Firearms officers are being prioritised before a proposed national rollout to all police in Scotland subject to funding.

Police Scotland is the only force in the UK not to supply body-worn video to armed police. The technology was first deployed in Devon and Cornwall in 2006 and has become widely used.

Deputy chief constable Will Kerr said the force was “well behind the curve” on body-worn video and that it should have been rolled out years ago.

At a virtual meeting of the Scottish Police Authority on Wednesday, he said: “There wasn’t the funding provision for it before, so in advance of COP26 when the eyes of the world were going to be on us, we knew we had to prioritise in giving body-worn video to our armed officers.

“It would have been better if we’d had this a number of years ago, and had all the infrastructure in place long before the run-up to the biggest international policing event in the UK for many decades.”

The deputy chief constable said he expected hundreds if not thousands of protestors to be present during the ten days of the climate change conference in Glasgow this November.

He also said there will be a “small number who want to come to fight, cause disruption and damage”.

He said the cameras would help protect police and the public especially in the context of the 550 or so armed officers and their extra responsibilities.

A Scottish Police Authority report noted greater public transparency, swifter justice and reducing assaults on officers among the potential benefits of body-worn video.

It is Police Scotland’s intention, it said, to accelerate the rollout of body-worn video to all frontline police officers
and staff up to the rank of inspector as quickly as funding will allow.

Calum Steele, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation (SPF), said: “The SPF is grateful that at long last some recognition of the lack of investment in policing has taken place. However, 500 body-worn videos (BWVs) for armed officers really is a pitiful achievement.

“Every police officer in England and Wales enjoys the protection of BWVs, and that just 500 being rolled out is being trumpeted like it’s lottery win strikes at the heart of the lack of ambition for the needs of a 21st century, modern police service.”

Holyrood’s justice sub-committee on policing highlighted concerns for human rights and privacy regarding the use of cameras on police officers in March.

The Scottish Police Authority said it would provide oversight of these concerns including considerations around data protection.

A report covering the plans read: “While we aim to prioritise and embrace the use of new technologies, we will continually review their use to ensure proportionality and effectiveness and the rollout of BWV will be done
following engagement with the public, as well as officers and staff.”