Newham Monitoring Project (NMP) is launching a campaign calling for the Metropolitan police to install CCTV cameras in the back of police vans as soon as possible.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe has said both on London radio station LBC and at a roadshow at Lambeth College a few days ago that he is broadly sympathetic to the idea, but NMP wants the Met to make an immediate start with a pilot scheme in Newham, where the local police have been rocked by racism allegations, that is in place before this summer's Olympics.
NMP has set up a petition online and has issued the following campaign statement:
Next week, the Met Commissioner is in Newham, speaking at the University of East London's Duncan House campus in Stratford on “Policing in the 21st Century” and activists from NMP will be pressing him there to agree to pilot CCTV cameras in police vans in the main Olympic host borough. The group is also asking people to sign the petition and to spread the word on FaceBook and Twitter (using the hashtag #policevancam).
Thanks to the courage and quick-thinking of Mauro Demetrio, who managed to record racist insults by police officers in the back of a police van in Newham, the Crown Prosecution Service has been forced to review its initial decision to take no action against any officer involved in his alleged ill-treatment.
What Mauro's experiences highlight are long-standing concerns about the potential risk posed to the personal safety of individual members of the public who are arrested and detained by the state. In the absence of robust systems of accountability, this risk is far greater when there is inadequate monitoring of such detention, especially inside a police vehicle.
Cameras to monitor citizens are now unfortunately commonplace in almost every part of public life, but the same enthusiasm for their use has never been shown where they are most needed – in the back of police vans transporting detainees. CCTV in police vehicles would provide greater protection to potentially vulnerable members of the public and, equally, to police officers themselves: cameras would provide strong evidence in disputed cases of alleged misconduct.
Following the recent public outcry over Mauro Demetrio's treatment, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe indicated that he might consider support the installation of CCTV cameras in police vans, although he has gave no indication of when this might be implemented.
Whilst we recognise that rolling out a nationwide scheme may take time and money, the Home Secretary must respond to public concerns and take action to rebuild public confidence at the earliest opportunity. Millions of pounds from the public purse have already been spent on preparing London for the Olympics, which includes increased levels of policing. We believe an essential part of this huge investment should be set aside to take reasonable steps to prevent potential abuses of civil liberties.
We call on the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to prioritise this issue and take steps now so that, as a absolute minimum, there is a pilot scheme of CCTV cameras in operation in police vans in the main Olympic host borough, Newham, by the start of the Olympics on July 27th 2012.