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Torbay Council using body cams

Three groups - including officers - are taking part in the 2 month trial

Torbay Council has issued the cameras to three groups of workers who usually operate alone.

It says the aim of using the technology is to improve the safety of staff and provide evidence of crime.

There are concerns among civil liberties campaigners about the increasing use of cameras by local authorities, but Torbay says its system complies with data protection law.

The council says all video is encrypted in the camera so it cannot be obtained by a third party.

It is securely downloaded to a database which deletes it from the device.

It is then deleted from the database after 31 days unless it is being used in a criminal investigation or other legal action.

A statement by the council said: “These staff usually work alone and the incidents of aggression and assaults have been increasing.

This trial is taking place during September and October 2018, where upon an evaluation will take place of the equipment, the impact on incidents of aggression and assaults and the results of this consultation.”

The statement added: “There are clear procedures in place for anyone wishing to obtain the data, which must meet the requirements of the Data Protection Act.”

Independent councillor Robert Excell, Torbay’s executive lead for community services, welcomed the trial.

He said body-worn cameras offered protection for the officers and public they came into contact with.

Said Cllr Excell: “A body camera acts as a deterrent, people are mindful of what they say, on both sides.

“It protects the officers and safeguards the public as well, by providing factual evidence.”

The council is seeking the views of residents about the trial through a consultation questionnaire on its website.

A survey by the civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch last year found more than half of UK councils gave body-worn cameras to officials.

Chief executive Renate Samson said: “Using body worn cameras to protect people’s safety is one thing, but widespread filming of people’s behaviour in order to issue fines is simply not proportionate.”

The Local Government Association responded that councils had a “proportionate” approach taking into account privacy. The cameras aimed to protect staff and provide a better service.

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