One of the strategic aims of the Surveillance Camera Commissioner is to raise standards and encourage compliance with the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (PoFA) and the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice (SC Code). In light of this, the Surveillance Camera Commissioner was delighted to support an initiative by Senior Responsible Officers (SROs) in the Midlands region to work together to share best and good practice by the police. SROs have strategic responsibility for force compliance with PoFA in support of the Chief Officer, and in respect of all relevant surveillance camera systems operated by the force.
Why the group was set up
Superintendent Simon Inglis, SRO for West Midlands police explained that the idea of setting up the group occurred out of a desire to ensure that his force was compliant with its responsibilities arising from section 33 of PoFA and the SC Code.
I realised that there would be peers across the region that were in a similar position and that there would be real benefits in coming together as a group to discuss the challenges and how to approach it. I approached the SROs for each of the other seven forces in the Midlands and discussed the possibility of joining up as a region to share existing knowledge and experience as well as working collectively on the challenges ahead.
Tony Porter, Surveillance Camera Commissioner, attended the initial meeting of the force SROs which consists of West Midlands, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire, Alliance, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Northants police.
The establishment of the Midlands group is consistent with my approach to raise awareness and support the police in demonstrating compliance with the Protection of Freedoms Act and Surveillance Camera Code of Practice when they operate surveillance camera systems overtly in public places. This partnership working is to be applauded as it will ensure that the public have visibility of that compliance.
The importance of the group
Overt surveillance has developed significantly in the last few years and is becoming a more integral part of everyday policing. Technology continues to advance rapidly and there is a digital footprint on most reports of crime these days. The development of surveillance camera systems including drones and body worn video has provided opportunities to make policing more efficient, convict offenders, whilst reducing assaults on officers.
It is important that the use of overt surveillance systems has clear governance, transparency and accountability. The regional forum will act as a reminder to all SROs to keep these aims in focus as well as providing an opportunity to share examples of development in this arena. It will encourage efficiency by sharing examples and reducing the same mistakes being repeated by different forces.
What the group hopes to achieve
The group’s vision is to build a platform where the respective police forces surveillance camera systems are compliant with PoFA (12) and the SC Code and where appropriate work towards achieving the Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s charter mark.