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5 June 2014, 12:20
All front-line police officers across County Durham will now wear body cameras.
Durham introduced Body-Worn Video (BWV) devices in August 2012, initially on a trial basis to officers in Bishop Auckland.
Their use was then extended to cover response and neighbourhood officers across the force by April last year.
But the tiny cameras have proved so successful that a further 200 have now been purchased and are being issued to all those working in a public-facing role, including the volunteer force and PCSO's.
This makes Durham one of the first forces - if not the first - in England and Wales to be extending their use across all frontline members of staff.
Durham's Police and Crime Commissioner, Ron Hogg told Heart:
"Issuing Body Worn Video devices to all frontline officers is an excellent, innovative practice being adopted in the constabulary.
The effective use of these cameras will promote public reassurance, capture best evidence, prevent harm and deter people from committing crime and anti-social behaviour.
Recordings provide independent evidence that will improve the quality of prosecution cases and reduce the reliance on victim evidence, particularly those who may be vulnerable or reluctant to attend court. Using recordings will also impact on the professionalism of the service and support the professional development of officers and staff."
Chief Supt Graham Hall, who has overseen the development of the cameras said they were proving invaluable in a variety of ways.
"They are being used to support early charging decisions by the Crown Prosecution Service as their staff can now often view the scene of an incident, hear the initial account of the victim and see any injuries caused.
This in turn often prompts early guilty pleas from offenders, for example those captured during public order incidents where their behaviour can clearly be seen on the footage.
And this helps to bring offenders to justice at the earliest opportunity which reduces overall costs to the criminal justice system."
As the cameras frequently have a deterrent effect on behaviour, other benefits have included a reduction in the amount of time spent on investigating complaints against officers and additional protection against malicious complaints and physical violence.