Mounted Keepers trialling Bodyworn Cameras

Our Mounted Keepers can be seen out patrolling the Commons on horseback seven days a week.  At the heart of their role is their duty to uphold the Commons’ Byelaws, as laid out in the Wimbledon and Putney Commons Act of 1871, as well as to provide a highly visible presence to prevent crime and reassure the public that the Commons are safe to be enjoyed.

Most of the time their job is educational, speaking to the public if they are inadvertently in breach of any of our Byelaws, or chatting about the Commons and how important they are not only for exercise and recreation but also for biodiversity.

From time to time, however, the role can become more demanding. The Keepers can be called to assist the police in apprehending a criminal, or can be on the receiving end of verbal or physical abuse for a variety of reasons, often through alcohol/drug abuse or mental health issues.  The Late-turn Keeper works alone, either on foot or in a vehicle, and they will often have to face potentially demanding problems, such as large groups drinking. The cameras would deter individuals who see a person in uniform as a target for abuse.

Keepers traditionally patrol on horseback, and dealing with conflict resolution from the back of a horse requires considerable skill and experience. Trying to record evidence with pen and paper can prove challenging in such a situation, particularly as the Keepers’ primary objective is to ensure that every situation is safe.  

Our Head Keeper has therefore been looking into the use of body worn cameras, as used by the police and many other enforcement or security teams.  Using body worn cameras would give an accurate, indisputable record of an incident, including what was said and who was involved, whilst enabling the Keeper to fully concentrate on controlling the situation and the horse safely.

Richard commented “We can see a great benefit in using these cameras but one thing we are very aware of, and keen to avoid, is raising concerns that Keepers wearing body cameras could create suspicion and so erode the relationship that currently exists between the public and the Keepers’ team.  To ensure that we maintain public confidence, the protocols around when the cameras are used will be very strict and the cameras would only be activated when they are required to gather evidence or record an incident. The Keepers will always advise a visitor when they are going to turn the camera on".

CCTV surveillance has become a part of our daily life and we are caught on numerous cameras as we move around our towns and cities, visit shops and offices, travel on roads and other parts of the transport system. It is recognised that we need these cameras to protect ourselves and our way of life from all kinds of threats. Their use acts to protect the rights of an individual as much as it protects the person wearing the camera.

We hope that visitors will feel more confident in the professional image and standards that wearing a body worn cameras would create.