PSNI officers take to the streets armed with body cameras to tackle domestic abuse
Police officers have taken to the streets armed with the force's latest weapon against the rising scourge of domestic abuse – body cameras.
Dozens of officers had the small cameras attached to their uniforms while policing the Giro d'Italia as a pilot scheme into their use got under way.
The introduction of the specialist equipment in Northern Ireland was given the go-ahead following a rise in domestic abuse cases.
As exclusively revealed in the Belfast Telegraph last week, the cameras will also be used during a range of other policing operations, including public order. Those in favour of the devices say they will make police more accountable, with their actions caught on camera. The equipment is being used mostly in the Foyle, Limavady, Magherafelt and Strabane areas for the duration of the scheme.
They were visible on the uniforms of officers in Belfast city centre at the weekend.
Policing Board member Jonathan Craig yesterday welcomed the distribution of the cameras to officers.
"Latest figures show that only one in three domestic abuse crimes resulted in an outcome for the victim," the DUP MLA said.
"One resource that the Policing Board believes will assist in improving this is the use of body worn video. This was a recommendation made by the Policing Board in 2009 in a human rights thematic review on the police response to domestic abuse.
"Although police officers are now able to use their BlackBerry devices to take digital photographs at the scene of domestic incidents, that is not a substitute for body worn videos. The use of photographic evidence has been shown to assist greatly in the prosecution of perpetrators. It can also help police proceed with an investigation if the victim withdraws support."
If the current pilot is successful, the scheme will be rolled out across Northern Ireland.
Once switched on by an officer, the device records what they see to a hard drive. The recording can be downloaded by the officer when back at base. It can be attached to clothing, helmets or on the front of bicycles.
Figures released by the PSNI last Thursday showed more than 27,000 reports of domestic abuse incidents in the past year, an increase of 1.6% compared to the previous 12 months.