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Smile for London's new camera-wielding police

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On a drizzly morning in north London today, the city's police commissioner introduced a new pilot scheme for the use of wearable cameras on patrolling police officers. Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, chief of the Metropolitan Police Service, noted that when his officers arrive at crime scenes, they're oftentimes the only ones not recording events on video. With 500 Axon Body cameras from Taser — to be deployed across 10 of the city's boroughs — he's hoping to rectify that asymmetry of information. The Metropolitan Police expects cameras will help it collect more evidence and process it faster, leading to "speedier justice," fewer cases falling apart, and more guilty pleas taking away the necessity for ever going to trial. It's also a move that should make the London police force more accountable, as footage from the cameras can be used to assess allegations of misconduct.

The technical specs of the Axon Body are nothing impressive — its resolution maxes out at 640 x 480 — though the camera's durability and toughness is. One of the Met's testing units was accidentally run over by a BMW X5 and survived with all its data intact. Recorded video from these cameras is encrypted both on the device and in Taser's cloud storage systems. When the camera is on, it continuously records the last 30 seconds, so that when the officer double-presses the big lightning button in the middle of the device, he's able to capture events that might otherwise have been missed.

The cops who modeled the cams say they're easy to operate, though they do bounce around a lot in their chest-mounted position. There seems to be unqualified enthusiasm for the new technology among the officers who'll be using it, but the public may take longer to warm to the idea. Should the Met's trial be deemed a success, many more cameras will be required to cover the full city, somewhere in excess of 10,000. That will be determined a year from now when the pilot scheme will have run its course.

London's camera cops