As I followed Leicester City’s game at Liverpool I thought that I might be the only person in Leicester who had any sympathy for the referee Mike Jones. As the ball hit City Captain Wes Morgan in the face in the penalty area the referee had to make a decision. That decision was made in a split second, watched real time by thousands of spectators, and then reviewed instantly using technology. The immediate witnesses were not unbiased; the ones in blue felt the ball hit Wes in the face, the ones in red were sure that they saw the ball hit his hand. Twitter lit up with opinions of what had happened. That footage was then scrutinised by ‘Judge’ Lineker and his jury from different angles, and in slow motion too. The referee, who saw what happened once and in real time, made his decision; he gave a penalty and, having seen the incident replayed many times, we know that he got it wrong.
As my colleagues and I ‘referee’ the day to day life of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland we face the same challenge as Mike Jones. We make decisions in an instant, often watched by others, some of whom are not unbiased witnesses, and those decisions are then reviewed afterwards by an even more eminent Judge than Gary Lineker! However, there is a crucial difference as, like rugby but unlike football, we are now encouraging our ‘referees’ to use technology to make sure that they make the right decision, and we are using that technology to review what we do.
As we head into 2015 we will be extending further our use of body worn video by patrolling officers. When Sir Clive Loader was elected as Police and Crime Commissioner in November 2012 he enthusiastically supported our desire to extend the use of such cameras. Sir Clive has ensured that we can fund the roll out.
Body Worn video means that we can show exactly what happened and, as the advert once said, a picture speaks a thousand words. That includes capturing evidence at domestic disputes showing often graphic images of the injuries, upset and behaviours. That includes recording our stop searches to show what actually happened and why the search was done. It also includes being able to show those who are arrested for public order offences just how they were behaving when they were locked up. Of course it also allows us to demonstrate the professionalism and restraint that my officers show when faced with some of the provocations that test them. I expect complaints against the police to drop and to be resolved more quickly, given the presence of real time footage of what actually happened.
Already we have seen our cameras capture evidence of domestic abuse and of murder. The use of cameras reduces bureaucracy, and increases the ability of Courts to make good decisions based on seeing the reality of what has actually happened. In a world where every phone is a camera then it is common-sense for us to use technology. Our officers and staff need to be equipped for work as they equip themselves for life. The ability to show what has happened could be crucial for public confidence; imagine if some of the recent issues causing such tension between the police and communities in America had been captured as images. Such images could have helped the justice system come to a view.
After the game City Manager Nigel Pearson commented; ..’we expose human beings to making errors. It is not a criticism of the officials. They are there to do a job and we could make it easier for everyone concerned if technology was utilised.’ Rolling out body worn video will make it a little easier for your local police force to do its job of protecting you from harm. Utilising technology will help to keep us all safer, and ensure that people don’t suffer penalties against them that should never have been imposed. Just ask Wes Morgan!
Simon Cole is Chief Constable of Leicestershire Police. He is also a qualified rugby referee, although at the level that he referees he, like Mike Jones, is unsupported by technology.