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Why we trialled body cams for enforcement staff

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Enforcement

A body camera affixed to the chest of a DVSA officer in a high-vis jacket. The camera bears a sticker saying 'Video & Audio'

DVSA’s frontline enforcement staff are out in all weathers, all times of the day, keeping Britain’s roads safe. They do a tough job and they do it well.

But even though they do vital work keeping motorists and their families safe, they sometimes receive abuse from the drivers they stop and penalise.

You might think this is just part of the job, but we disagree. That’s why we decided to trial the use of body cameras on some roadside enforcement checks.

A small minority

You may be surprised to know that since 2016, abuse against our staff has risen by over 50%. I’m sure you’ll agree this is unacceptable.

While the majority of people we see at the roadside are polite and considerate, a small number can be aggressive and threatening towards our examiners.

These people can have a serious effect on our staff, and they give lorry drivers a bad name. We’ve resolved to do everything we can stop them.

What are body cameras?

Body cameras are exactly what you might imagine they are. They’re small devices, about the size of a mobile phone, usually worn on the chest, which record video and audio, much like a personal CCTV device.

The police have been using this type of cameras for a number of years. More recently, traffic wardens have started using them.

So far, using these cameras has been a success. They’ve allowed us to capture and deter abuse against our enforcement staff, including physical violence and verbal aggression.

Our staff like it

One roadside examiner, when using the newly introduced camera stated:

I did not actually have to switch the camera on, but I had a driver who was a bit volatile, for example, raised voice and arms flailing.

I pointed to the camera and warned him that I would switch it on and record if he did not calm down. This was enough, as he curtailed his behaviour straight away and I didn’t have any further problems with him.

So the mere threat of recording did the trick!

Protecting privacy

Of course collecting large amounts of video does raise concerns around people’s privacy. We’re very sensitive to these concerns and take them very seriously. When we use body worn cameras, we have strict guidelines about what happens to the footage.

As with all organisations who use CCTV, or in fact any data, there are laws which say what we can do with the video. This makes sure we always follow the rules when collecting, processing or storing data, including video.

These rules mean that:

  • we cannot store footage unnecessarily
  • footage can only be accessed by or given to authorised people
  • footage is stored securely if it is kept

What next?

We’re looking at making the use of body cams standard across all DVSA enforcement staff, but we need to run another trial before we do so.

They're now going through further trials, and we hope their introduction will make our roads a safer environment for everyone - including our staff.

As ever, please feel free to leave your feedback in the comments section below.

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  1. Comment by sam cooper posted on

    Do you have a favourite you are trialling ? any recommendations would be appreciated

    • Replies to sam cooper>

      Comment by jameslindley posted on

      We don't at the moment, but we may announce it when we consider bringing it out of trial and into normal business.

  2. Comment by Trevor Coltman posted on

    Good idea! They may also be useful to drivers for recording walk around checks?
    Is it possible that the rise in abuse is linked to an increase in stress in the industry?

    • Replies to Trevor Coltman>

      Comment by Kevin Broome posted on

      Spot on Trevor Mobil phones make it a level playing field

  3. Comment by Phil Bibbings posted on

    Something of interest in this debate is that some Police Forces have now started to accept suspect interviews which have been conducted via Body Worn Cameras as evidence in summary cases. Obviously correct PACE interview procedures need to be followed but this is an interesting development which could be of future use to enforcement staff when conducting investigations at the roadside.

  4. Comment by Justin case posted on

    But if we are not allowed wireless cameras in an mot station will they be allowed inside?

  5. Comment by Pierre de Carteret posted on

    Targeted enforcement leads to more activity with those seeking an unfair advantage. The increase stated is probably a result of the wider success in DVSA strategy. Whilst its a shame body cameras are necessary, I applaud the approach and obvious results being delivered for our industry and the safety of all road users.

  6. Comment by Terry Jones posted on

    You usually find that those who are aggressive have something to hide and the aggression is caused by the fact they have been caught out.
    Carry on the good work roll it out as soon as possible.

  7. Comment by Steve posted on

    First of all let me state NOBODY should be threatened with Violence for doing their job, but if you have a volatile person the Officers attitude can have a lot to do with it some DVSA staff and drivers can be arrogant put the 2 together and a volatile mix, but you get people that are good with people and some that aren't. But on the whole it is a shame it is needed but nowadays it is a must if you are polite then the camera can't catch you doing anything wrong.

  8. Comment by patrick mccrory posted on

    Good Idea.
    The cameras footage can of course be and must be disclosed in full, to the
    defendant's too, if any proceedings follow.
    We should all have them and dashcams too, it wont be long before they are
    a legal requirement on all vehicles, and will be part of the MOT to ensure they are working.

  9. Comment by Steve posted on

    It’s sad but necessary nobody has to take abuse when doing there job

  10. Comment by Andy Gash posted on

    I can’t help wonder why they have seen the increase in threatening behaviour, why the sudden change in attitude toward enforcement staff?

    • Replies to Andy Gash>

      Comment by Trevor Coltman posted on

      Dealing with clients, customers, drivers or just people if you like can require adequate training.
      DVSA staff may not be selected on the basis of customer skills.
      Neither, particularly, are drivers.
      Confrontations are part of the job. Some handle situations well and others not so well.
      Transparency and fairness in enforcement minimise conflict.
      Fuelling the them and us relationship does not.
      Regularly appraising contacts might highlight problem areas and people?

  11. Comment by neil lawson posted on

    should have issued them same time as the police did well over due

  12. Comment by James posted on

    Sadly, it seems sensible to use them in this day and age.

    However, I do feel that they ought to be used to capture the totality of the conversation and not just be turned on when the enforcement officer feels it appropriate.

    As a parallel, the police welcome dashcam footage etc being uploaded to their website, but they require the whole sequence including prior to an incident.

    If the objective is to ensure a successful prosecution (or driver conduct hearing) I wonder if DVSA could address this?

  13. Comment by Bill Giles posted on

    This is good news and I'm sure that as word gets around we will see a decrease in the amount of verbal aggressive and physical violence threats towards people who are doing a worthwhile job.

  14. Comment by Colin Jones posted on

    Good thing, nobody should be abused trying to carry out their lawful
    work. We should not except or tolerate any threatening behavior towards
    our public servants who are as many forget, working on our behalf ensuring
    that we can all work & travel safely.

  15. Comment by Mark Livingstone posted on

    Great idea, roll it out