Police to Interview Suspects By Bodycam

According to an article in The Canary last week, the government is considering passing legislation to allow the rozzers to interview suspects in the street instead of in an interview room back at the cop shop. These interviews will, however, be recorded by bodycam.

The article begins

Pilot plans to allow police officers to interview suspects on the streets via body cameras, rather than at police stations, has raised concerns among civil liberties groups.

Currently, while the formal caution that police recite when arresting somebody states clearly that anything they say may be used in evidence against them, officers are not formally able to interview someone until they have been taken to a police station. Crucially, once at the police station, the suspect has the right to independent legal advice, and they are entitled to pre-interview disclosure.

This pre-interview disclosure is vitally important as it is designed to ensure the person and their legal representative understand why the person has been deprived of their liberty, the nature of the allegations made against them, and the reason why they have been arrested. Without this disclosure, and access to a solicitor, the suspect is extremely vulnerable, especially if unfamiliar with the complexities of the law.

Unsurprisingly, given the cuts to the police service, these proposals have nothing to do with access to justice, and are primarily concerned with saving money. Hampshire Chief Constable, and national police spokesman for body-worn video, Andy Marsh stated:

‘I think this will lead to swifter, fairer and more importantly cheaper justice.’

The emphasis seems to be most definitely on cheaper justice, with fairness coming a very poor second. The article quotes two critics of the scheme, who point out that current practice is based on decades of experience of the abuse of police powers. And that the people, who will suffer through this innovation won’t be the experienced, hardened crims, but inexperienced suspects unsure of their rights and the law.

The full article can be read at: http://www.thecanary.co/2015/11/11/fears-raised-cheaper-justice-policing-plans/

A number of points can be made here. Firstly, there’s the danger of serious breaches of justice in allowing the police to interview suspects away from the interview room and the presence of a lawyer to represent them. The government seems to think that allowing the interview to be recorded by bodycam will somehow be an acceptable substitute for removing established procedures involving formal, recorded interviews. It looks simply like they’re desperate to get convictions, and are willing to use this technology as a pretext for removing established judicial safeguards. Hey, it’s all recorded on camera, so it’s properly supervised. It can be wrong, can it?’ This seems to be the attitude.

It also shows how the government seems to be believe that increased surveillance technology is automatically a solution. Now, I’m very much aware that there is the view that Paris was targeted by ISIS for their butchery, instead of London, because the City of Light had much less CC TV coverage. But surveillance cameras, as the French also knew, carried their own dangers of creating a pervasive, surveillance state. Alan Moore when he wrote V for Vendetta in the 1980s placed surveillance cameras on the streets in his Fascist future Britain, thinking that this would really scare its readers. Well, it’s now thirty years or so after the strip, and surveillance cameras are everywhere and no one takes any notice, a fact the great man himself has remarked on. I’m sure surveillance cameras have an important use, but they should be adjuncts to, not substitutes for, traditional policing.

I also wonder what will be done about recorded interviews in which the individual is left off without charge. Will they still be retained? What about a person’s right to privacy, and not to have the state keep records on them when they are innocent? There have been cases where innocent citizens have found that the rozzers have continued to keep files on them even after they were released and declared innocent. I’m very much afraid something similar could happen here.

And there is the danger of the wider misuse of such technology as the Tories make Britain become ever more authoritarian and Fascistic. Way back in the 1970s the police were required to compile useful intelligence on potential suspects. This ended up with the bluebottles deciding someone was suspicious, based no more on the fact that they were a Punk, or a pregnant teenager. And one of Cameron’s brilliant ideas was for the cops to take the names and particulars of strikers on picket lines. He’s had to climb down on that, but given the backing the Tories have always received from rabidly anti-union groups, I doubt believe this has gone away. Not completely. So there’s a real threat to civil liberties there.

And lastly, there’s the rather more fantastic threat that this is the start of something like the Borg. They’re the cyborg race from Star Trek, who have merged into a single, collective intelligence – a group creature, so that their society resembles a giant ant’s nest. We’re nowhere near that level of cybernetics yet, but one of the more interesting comments about the Google Glass computer spectacles was that it practically made the wearer one of the Borg. Google Glass were the hi-tech specs that allowed you to surf the internet while walking about, and for your on-line friends to see what you were seeing. I can remember back in the 1990s there was a similar experimental arrangement being tried out by the computer geeks at one of the American unis. A friend of mine, who played Shadowrun, a Dungeons and Dragons-type game based in the world of cyberpunk and computer hacking, seemed unsurprised when I told him about it. He called the technology and the people who used them ‘gargoyles’, which was the term used in the game for people, who used cyberspace technology to experience the sensations experienced by another person.

So, in the game’s parlance, this technology effectively makes the rozzers the justice ministry’s gargoyles. And with others seeing what they see, it’s almost ‘1984’ and the Borg. It’s just that they haven’t been mentally connected to the internet yet, so they aren’t yet like the Robomen of the Dalek Invasion of Earth.

But it’s early days yet. Give the Tories time. They are Borg. Resistance is futile. We will be assimilated.

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