UK Schools Experiment With Police-Style Body Cameras To Tackle 'Low-level Background Disorder'

Techdirt has written dozens of stories about US police forces deploying body cameras, with all sorts of interesting consequences. Their use for school police means that body cameras are also turning up in US schools, but the next logical step of putting body cameras on the actual teachers has been taken not in the US, but in the UK, as the Guardian reports:

Teachers in two UK schools are trialling using body cameras in class because they are “fed up with low-level background disorder”, a criminal justice academic has revealed.

The former Home Office researcher said the three-month pilot scheme, started within the last month, securely stores footage on a cloud platform like ones used by police forces.

Although only two UK schools are currently involved, a survey carried out by the Times Educational Supplement revealed that a third of the teachers who were asked said they would be willing to try wearing a body camera; two thirds said they would feel safer wearing it; and a tenth even thought it would eventually become compulsory for all UK teachers to use them. Another article in the Guardian responding to this news pointed out the many pitfalls of taking this approach, and noted:

as teachers we want children to be accountable for their behaviour. But increasing the spread of surveillance in schools isn’t going to help us do that. Classrooms will be transformed from spaces cultivating inquiry, in all its forms, to centres wary of the threat of being caught out by an all-seeing eye. Ellis [the criminal justice academic who revealed the existence of the UK trial] is at pains to point out that the cameras will not be on all the time; only “where there is a perceived threat to a member of staff or pupils” will they be used. Quite how this will be decided, and how their use will not gradually become routine, is not clear.

One constraint on the routine use of body cameras by all teachers is the sheer quantity of footage that would be produced, and the near-impossibility of reviewing it all. However, that may not be a limiting factor for long if a move by Taser International, which controls around three-quarters of the body camera business in the US, bears fruit:

Taser International, the military hardware company that essentially owns the police body-worn camera market, believes the solution lies in artificial intelligence. It has acquired a startup called Dextro to build an AI research lab focused on developing tools that make it easier for police to search and analyze the massive video libraries hosted by Taser.

Once it gets easier and cheaper for the police to search through their vast video libraries, it will also become easier and cheaper for others to do the same. At that point, it might not be just schools that start deploying body cameras, but everyone interacting with the public in some way. What could possibly go wrong?

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Author: Glyn Moody

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