Why police officers need the protection Body Worn Video can offer - Supt Mark Rennie
This week sees the arrival of 13 new probationers, who will commence their new policing career in the Division.
When I first meet them I always highlight how I truly believe that policing Scotland’s capital is a privilege, which will provide then with some amazing, but also challenging, experiences.
It’s fair to say that policing has changed dramatically since I started as a probationer in Leith 26 years ago. At that time the levels of knife crime and alcohol-related violence were staggering. On most evenings it would be commonplace to attend a serious assault linked to a pub or a stabbing in the street and deal with the aftermath of significant violence.
Reviewing all the city’s incidents each day, as I do now, it’s reassuring that serious violence is far less common as a result of improved management of licensed premises, better education and more stringent punishment regarding knife possession.
Social media has many benefits and it’s a great way to find out what’s going on. The problem, though, is that it tends to focus disproportionately on isolated serious crimes and report incidents at an early stage when often they turn out to be less serious than the multiple police cars and crime scene tape would suggest! That disproportionate focus can give a skewed presentation of violence in the city and worry residents unnecessarily.
Please be rest assured, as I reiterate to new probationers, Edinburgh is a safe city. Serious violent incidents are rare and when they happen they tend to involve local criminals who are often in dispute with each other.
Violence towards anyone is completely unacceptable and when speaking with those officers, I reiterate the importance of their primary role to ensure public safety, provide a visible reassuring presence in communities and also support and protect each other.
Police officers carry out a unique role in society – they are there to protect the public and keep them safe. They can only effectively do that if they themselves can work safely.
Thankfully officers are now far better protected and equipped than when I started the job. Improvements in Personal Protective Equipment have made a significant difference to officer safety. Despite that, officers experience abuse and physical violence on our streets virtually on a daily basis.
For that reason, I am fully supportive of proposed moves to introduce Body Worn Video for officers. As well as gathering evidence and ensuring that officers can record behaviour and justify their actions, I do think this will provide a mechanism to support them further and deter those who may potentially engage in violence towards them.
Our consultation is now open and is available on the Police Scotland website and I would encourage everyone to provide their views. An open and transparent service is key to policing by consent and Body Worn Video will not only help Police Scotland achieve that, but ensure those new officers starting their policing career are supported and protected whilst they discharge their duty to protect the public.
Supt Mark Rennie, Edinburgh Division