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Britain police get a camera in cap

July 14, 2007|From the Associated Press

LONDON — Britain is attaching cameras to the caps and helmets of police officers, tightening a web of video surveillance that is the most extensive in the world.

The country has a network of about 4 million closed-circuit cameras, and privacy advocates complain that the average Briton is recorded as many as 300 times a day.

The Home Office said it was allocating $6 million for the plan, enough to buy more than 2,000 cameras for the country's 42 police departments. Judges and jurors will be able to "see and hear the incident through the eyes and ears of the officer at the scene," Minister of State for Police and Security Tony McNulty said.

The Home Office said it was exploring other uses for the devices, including fitting them with the ability to send live video to a command center, or special license-plate recognition software that would enable police to identify stolen or suspicious vehicles just by looking at them.

Jen Corlew of the civil rights group Liberty praised the guidelines for using the cameras, noting that police were to inform people they were being recorded and that video not being used in an investigation had to be erased within a month.

But Ben Ward of Human Rights Watch said privacy issues would depend on "whether the safeguards, including on notification and storage, are uniformly respected." Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union expressed concern and predicted the U.S. would soon give police the same power.

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