Agency trialling body camera use

The Environment Agency is trialling the use of body cameras.
The Environment Agency is trialling the use of body cameras.

Environment Agency enforcement officers in the North East are wearing body worn cameras as part of a six-month trial.

It is the first of its kind within the organisation and is aimed at assessing if cameras can help reduce incidents of anti-social behaviour, assaults and threats against staff – particularly those working with regulated and illegal waste sites.

If successful, they could be rolled out to the agency’s teams across the country.

Since the trial started in April, waste enforcement and fisheries officers have been wearing the devices during their routine activities and activate them if they encounter a hostile situation or site.

Officers have already reported that wearing the cameras has prevented threatening situations from escalating.

Rachael Caldwell, from the Environment Agency’s waste and enforcement department, said: “The safety of our staff is paramount.

“They are well trained in dealing with hostile situations and we take any threat against them very seriously. But our preference is to prevent hostility in the first place.

“Officers will only switch the cameras on if and when they enter a hostile situation.

“This could be at a site where they have experienced aggressive behaviour in the past, or an unknown quantity where hostility may be anticipated, such as on a remote river bank.”

Studies show that offenders are less likely to contest evidence when they know their offence is captured on camera.

People will be informed that they are being filmed.

Environment Agency waste enforcement officers regularly encounter aggressive behaviour across the country.

Since 2001, the organisation has successfully prosecuted 59 cases of obstruction, hostility or threatening behaviour towards staff – 22 of which were in the North East.