Environment Agency (EA) enforcement officers in the north-east of England are wearing cameras – known as ‘bodycams’ – as part of a six-month trial.
The trial, the first within the organisation, was suggested by an officer who had been threatened with violence during a site visit.
If successful, bodycams – now the norm among many enforcement agencies – could be rolled out to EA teams across the country and used at visits to poor-performing or illegal waste sites.
The trial will assess whether cameras can help reduce incidences of antisocial behaviour, assaults and threats against staff, particularly those who work with unregulated and illegal waste sites. According to the EA, waste enforcement officers regularly encounter aggressive behaviour.
Since the trial started in April, officers have been wearing the devices during routine activities, and activate them only if they encounter a hostile situation or site.
Officers have reported that wearing the cameras has prevented threatening situations from escalating.
The idea came from Paul Whitehill, an ex-police officer, who was threatened when he and a colleague were on a routine visit to an illegal waste site. He said: “I worked with body cameras in the police and saw how effective they can be, so suggested we run a trial.”
Rachael Caldwell from the EA’s waste and enforcement department said: “The safety of our staff is paramount. They are well trained in dealing with hostile situations and we take any threat against them very seriously. But our preference is to prevent hostility in the first place.
“Studies also show that people are less likely to contest the evidence when they know their offence is captured on camera. This could help speed up justice and reduce legal costs.”
Officers in the trial must follow guidelines. The cameras will not be permanently switched on and people will be informed if they are being filmed. If they are used the footage is automatically deleted after a month unless it is required for evidential purposes.
MRW reported in June that staff at LondonWaste had been kitted out with bodycams after an employee was assaulted by a member of the public.