JANE'S POLICE REVIEW COMMUNITY - APRIL 30, 2010
Stars of CCTV
After 30 years of policing service, the last 15 of them focussing on police CCTV matters, it is clear to me how undervalued public space CCTV managers are, by both the public safety partners they work with, and by their senior line managers. This applies to operations in both the private and public sector.
Many senior managers view their CCTV managers as technical geeks or general administrators, ensuring the operation runs 24/7, dealing with correspondence and handing over product to investigators whenever they request it. The CCTV manager's oversight role is sometimes viewed as a secondary responsibility.
What may not be generally appreciated is the critical role these local CCTV managers play in ensuring the checks and balances necessary to protect individuals from over zealous investigators, and that operational processes are followed correctly.
My work takes me to many CCTV control rooms. In most I see well-balanced operations with strong, independently minded CCTV managers in post, working in partnership with others to detect or reduce crime. However, they also accept that their primary responsibility is to protect individual privacy which we all, as members of the public, expect to be protected. This requires knowledge of key pieces of legislation, and robust and auditable operating procedures. But most importantly, it requires the confidence and interpersonal skills to occasionally say no to investigating officers, be they police, HM Revenue and Customs or trading standards.
If we are to continue to see public space CCTV operations across the country receiving the huge public support they presently enjoy, all of us must ensure the use of CCTV without local oversight does not become the norm
The independent control room manager is the firewall that denies the inappropriate use of CCTV, and the fulcrum, ensuring that all the checks and balances are operating correctly. These individuals need the understanding and support of their senior line managers, even if they occasionally refuse that same senior manager a request to use CCTV in an operation.
When such individuals are in place managing operations, I am personally quite comfortable to be monitored by CCTV cameras, confident in the knowledge that my safety and privacy are being protected. However, there is no statutory requirement for an appropriately empowered CCTV manager to be in place carrying out this function, and in these times of financial austerity these sorts of positions could be at risk.
If we lose them, we start to lose our privacy, and we take a step nearer to an Orwellian society.
You cannot properly operate public space CCTV on the cheap.
This is a personal view and may not be the view of Kent Police.