London police to get 20,000 body cameras

London police to get 20,000 body cameras
An Oakland Police Department officer mounts a Portable Digital Recording Device, a body camera designed to record both audio and video in the field, at the police headquarters in Oakland, California April 14, 2015.

LONDON - London's police officers are to be equipped with 20,000 body-worn cameras, more than in any other city, to help them gather evidence and improve public confidence in them, authorities said on Wednesday.

"For too long our equipment has lagged behind the technology almost everyone has in their pockets to capture events as they unfold," Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said in a statement.

"Soon, more of our officers will be able to make a record of the very challenging circumstances they are asked to deal with."

The Metropolitan Police is under scrutiny over the use of"stop and search" powers which critics say disproportionately affect people from ethnic minorities and fuel distrust.

Officers involved in a trial of 1,000 body-worn cameras in parts of London reported that the devices were "most valuable where trust is key and police behaviour is under scrutiny, for example in stop and search", authorities said.

The trial had also shown the cameras' potential for gathering evidence, increasing the number of early guilty pleas and speeding up the justice process.

The cameras will be in use by most of London's uniformed officers by the end of March 2016.

In the United States, following a series of killings of unarmed black men by police, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has said body-worn cameras should be "the norm".

Civil rights groups have expressed concern about who has access to footage captured by cameras. "While they may be a useful tool for monitoring sensitive operations, such as the deployment of firearms officers, they also have the potential to be highly intrusive surveillance tools," said Bella Sankey, director of policy at campaign group Liberty.

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