US technology company Axon will supply Police Scotland with body cameras for its officers ahead of the COP26 summit.
As part of the £505,000 contract signed by the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), Scottish police will receive 650 Axon Flex 2 cameras. Introducing the body-worn video (BWV) devices will bring Police Scotland in line with other forces.
Axon supplied London’s Metropolitan Police Service with 9,000 Axon Body 3 cameras and 3,000 Axon Flex 2 cameras in October last year.
Chief Constable Iain Livingstone’s previously gave his support for the technology, describing its deployment as a “pressing, critical, ethical and operational imperative”. He also committed to public engagement prior to the rollout.
Assistant Chief Constable Kenny MacDonald said: “Armed policing remains an area of high risk and understandable public scrutiny and as such the roll-out of body-worn video will help improve transparency and accountability. The safety of our officers and staff as well as that of the public remains paramount in our decision to introduce this technology.
“The use of body-worn video aims to lead to greater transparency, reduce and resolve complaints, as well as reducing delays to the justice system.”
MacDonald added: “While this is not new technology, and every other armed policing unit in the UK uses body-worn cameras, it is a significant introduction for Scottish policing.
“As such, our public engagement survey for wider use by frontline officers is essential to ensuring people have a voice and it will help us gather and address any ethical and community-related concerns where possible.”
With the COP26 climate conference coming to Glasgow’s Scottish Events Campus (SEC) in November, the city is looking to step up security efforts.
Over 30,000 people are expected to attend the event. While ongoing Covid restrictions might prevent some people from physically attending, 120 heads of state, along with other government figures, are planning to appear at the conference.
Currently, scheduled attendees include Pope Francis, US President Joe Biden, and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Sir David Attenborough has also been named as the People’s Advocate for COP26.
The area surrounding the SEC, dubbed the Blue Zone, will come under UN control with its own security personnel. However, some delegates could be staying in hotels as far away as Perth and Edinburgh and travelling to the event.
Around 10,000 officers are expected to be used to ensure delegate safety.
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Since the use of bodycams is relatively recent, research into their effectiveness has not been able to keep up with their adoption. Research has pointed to an increase in arrests, prosecutions and guilty pleas, along with greater transparency and more positive interactions between police and the public.
A Police Scotland survey from February 2021 asked the public about their views on armed police officers using BWV devices to record certain incidents. According to Police Scotland, around 9,000 people responded, and the survey found strong public support for the proposals.
Use of the cameras could be extended to more police officers across Scotland depending on the results of a national consultation.
Martyn Evans, Chair of the SPA, said: “The Authority supports fully the roll-out of BWV to Police Scotland’s armed officers in advance of the COP26 conference. There is clear evidence of the benefits for policing, the public and the wider criminal justice system when BWV is available.
“The Authority is committed to supporting Police Scotland in exploring and embracing new technologies for policing whilst ensuring privacy and human rights are respected and robust oversight arrangements are in place to maintain public trust and confidence.”