Newham Monitoring Project has launched a public campaign to have CCTV cameras installed in the back of police vans in Newham in time for the start of the Olympics.
The campaign calls on individuals and organisations to support a wider demand for the Metropolitan Commissioner Hogan-Howe to install cameras in the back of all police vehicles, but specifies that at a minimum, a pilot needs to be in place in Newham before the start of the Olympics.
Mauro Demetrio, who faced racial comments and alleges that he was assaulted by police in the back of a van in Newham last summer, spoke of his experience and why he is supporting the call:
“I thought I was going to die in the back of the police van and can never forget the racism I experienced. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. We need cameras in the back of all vans.”
A spokesperson for Newham Monitoring Project said
“Communities in Newham face a massive policing operation this summer. Trust in the police is extremely low after the recent flood of race allegations and we want to see a clear commitment from the Commissioner to have, as a minimum, a first set of cameras in place in vans in Newham before the Olympics”
A young black woman from Newham, aged 16, explained her thoughts on why she and her friends will be supporting the campaign:
“I agree that there should be cameras in the police vans because we now know that there are things that happen that the public are unaware of, also most people will take the words of the police over the words of a teenager, so to stop injustice there should be cameras especially since the Olympics are coming up and the amount of police roaming around will noticeably increase.
Newham Monitoring Project also issued a longer statement explaining the importance of the campaign:
“Thanks to the courage and quick-thinking of Mauro Demetrio, who managed to record racist insults by a police officer in the back of a police van in Newham, the Crown Prosecution Service has been forced to review its initial decision to take no action against any officer involved in his alleged ill-treatment.
What Mauro’s experiences highlight are long-standing concerns about the potential risk posed to the personal safety of individual members of the public who are arrested and detained by the state. In the absence of robust systems of accountability, this risk is far greater when there is inadequate monitoring of such detention, especially inside a police vehicle.
Cameras to monitor citizens are now commonplace in almost every part of public life, but the same enthusiasm for their use has never been shown where they are most needed – in the back of police vans transporting detainees. CCTV in police vehicles would provide greater protection to potentially vulnerable members of the public and, equally, to police officers themselves: cameras would provide strong evidence in disputed cases of alleged misconduct.
Following the recent public outcry over Mauro Demetrio’s treatment, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe indicated that he might consider support of the installation of CCTV cameras in police vans, although he has given no timeframe as to when this might be implemented.
Whilst we recognise that rolling out a nationwide scheme may take time and money, the Home Secretary must respond to public concerns and take action to rebuild public confidence at the earliest opportunity. Millions of pounds from the public purse have already been spent on preparing London for the Olympics, which includes increased levels of policing. We believe an essential part of this huge investment should be set aside to take reasonable steps to prevent potential abuses of civil liberties.
We call on the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to prioritise this issue and take steps now so that, as an absolute minimum, there is a pilot scheme of CCTV cameras in operation in police vans in the main Olympic host borough, Newham, by the start of the Olympics on July 27th 2012″