Police Ombudsman calls for PSNI armed response officers to have head-mounted cameras

An officer holds the new Taser 7 during a demonstration as Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary and Thames Valley P
Police were right to use Taser in Belfast incident, ombudsman finds.

Armed response police officers in Northern Ireland should be provided with head-mounted cameras to ensure improved footage of weapons discharges, the Police Ombudsman has recommended. It follows an investigation which found that footage recorded by the shoulder-mounted camera of an officer who fired a Taser had been obstructed, compromising its evidential value. In response, a senior PSNI officer said the force’s “stark budgetary outlook” was affecting its investment in head-mounted cameras.

Ombudsman Marie Anderson said: “Body-worn video provides valuable evidence of the circumstances in which armed officers choose to use significant levels of force. “In this case the footage was obstructed by the officer’s other police equipment, largely due to the camera having been mounted on the chest/shoulder area.” Mrs Anderson made the recommendation following an investigation which found that an officer had been justified in firing a Taser during an incident in north Belfast in August 2021. Officers had been deployed after police received a 999 call stating that a man had made threats to kill a family member. Police located his car outside the home of his former partner. A number of children were registered as living at the address. A statement from the Police Ombudsman said armed response officers were advised that the man had a history of violence, was immune to the effects of CS spray, and had been involved in a previous incident in which it had taken eight police officers to restrain him. Officers advised Police Ombudsman investigators that the man appeared to have been intoxicated, was irate, had blood dripping from a hand and was holding a long slim item. They said they heard him shouting at someone else in the house. The ombudsman said the officer who fired the Taser said she did so when he went to re-enter the property after being told to come out with his hands on his head. Her account was corroborated by body-worn video footage and colleagues. The first discharge missed but a second connected and the man was then successfully restrained by her colleagues. The officer said she acted to prevent the man harming himself or others. She added that she had considered other options, including the use of PAVA incapacitant spray, an AEP baton round and her handheld baton, but considered Taser to be the most appropriate means of resolving the situation. Anderson found that the use of the Taser had been “reasonable, necessary and proportionate” in the circumstances, and noted that the officer had adopted a “graduated and flexible approach” to the situation in compliance with police instruction. PSNI chief superintendent Sam Donaldson said cameras significantly improve the quality of evidence captured by officers. He added: “As for head-mounted cameras, we acknowledge this recommendation by the Police Ombudsman and an extension of this technology is something we are keen to explore further. “Use of head-mounted cameras was trialled by some members of our Armed Response Unit (ARU) in 2017. “This trial resulted in equipment being issued to all ARU officers to allow for helmet-mounted cameras. “Calls for a wider rollout of this new technology are certainly welcome, however we are working to deliver the best possible policing service to communities within our reduced budget and resources. “Unfortunately, the stark budgetary outlook is affecting our investment in head-mounted cameras, however, we will continue to keep the use of this technology under review.”>

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