Police forces across London have stepped up the fight against crime by using Microsoft’s Azure cloud service to store and review millions of hours of footage filmed on officers’ body cameras.
Around 22,000 police men and women from 32 boroughs in the capital have been given wearable video cameras so they can automatically record criminal acts, helping with prosecutions.
Microsoft has now revealed that the footage will be uploaded to its Azure cloud service, where officers can study it and use it in court against those accused of wrongdoing.
The technology can also be used to protect the officers themselves. A pilot scheme saw a 93% reduction in the number of complaints made against police who were wearing the cameras, which are known as Body-Worn Video (BWV) and have been developed by Microsoft partner Axon.
“With the rollout of BWV, the Metropolitan Police Service is now a world leader in the use of technology as part of our daily commitment to not only help us fight crime but to help the Met become more accountable. The technology will also show our officers at their best, dealing with difficult and dangerous situations every day,” Superintendent Adrian Hutchinson, from the Metropolitan Police Service, said.
Last month, all neighbourhood and response officers in the capital were given BWV, which are roughly the size of a cigarette packet and attach to the shoulder area of a vest. Costing nearly £10 million, the move made the Met the biggest user of the technology of any police force in the world.
The Met has said that the cameras help to resolve cases quicker, and have been particularly successful in domestic abuse incidents. The force added there had been a rise in guilty pleas from offenders who know their actions have been recorded.
Mayor Sadiq Khan said the technology brings the police force “into the 21st century”.
Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe told the Standard newspaper: “Our experience of using cameras already shows that people are more likely to plead guilty when they know we have captured the incident on a camera. That then speeds up justice, puts offenders behind bars more quickly and, most importantly, protects potential victims.
“Video captures events in a way that can’t be represented on paper in the same detail, a picture paints a thousand words, and it has been shown the mere presence of this type of video can often defuse potentially violent situations without the need for force to be used.
“People have pleaded guilty when seeing evidence on film rather than challenging what our officers said happened. It’s powerful because it captures the emotional state of everyone at the scene. It will capture the suspect, the victim or how children appear affected.”
Officers can use BWV to record their entire shift, and the footage will be automatically uploaded to Azure when the device is docked at a police station.
The evidence will be stored in the cloud within the UK after Microsoft opened multiple data centres in the region in September. The Ministry of Defence, which employs around 250,000 people, has signed up to use Microsoft Office 365 and Azure cloud services, with the Government citing value for money and security as key reasons for the agreement.
“The Met has selected Microsoft Azure as we believe their UK data residency and transparency around secure data management offers both the public and the Police Service reassurance that this technology is being used effectively to support the prosecution of offenders, the safeguarding of private information and build confidence in policing,” Mr Hutchinson added.
Microsoft’s new cloud regions in the UK become part of one the world’s largest online storage infrastructures, supported by more than 100 data centres globally. These hold over 30 trillion pieces of data and are backed by billions of dollars in investment since 1989.
“When it comes to collecting evidence via BWV that will help safeguard the public and protect our police forces, the need to store masses of information securely yet ensure it is accessible by authorised personnel is paramount,” said Nicola Hodson, General Manager of Marketing and Operations at Microsoft UK.
“We are delighted that the Metropolitan Police Service has recognised that Microsoft’s UK data centres and Azure platform are the perfect enablers of this service and we look forward to supporting the expansion of this scheme, which has the real potential to reduce crime across the London area.”
Matt Spencer, UK Managing Director of Axon Public Safety, said: “Microsoft Azure is well known for its industry-leading security and reliability and, with it, Axon Public Safety can provide the most secure and compliant cloud capability to the London Met and other customers.”