British coppers adding spy cameras to traffic wardens

Smile — you’re on candid camera!

Spy cameras are being hidden in traffic warden identity badges so they can film motorists who object to being handed a parking ticket.

The device is so small it would be missed by anything other than a close examination and wardens are under no obligation to tell someone they are being recorded.

The only signal is a small sticker on the badge saying “CCTV in operation”. Civil liberty campaigners last night warned the move was a worrying expansion of the surveillance state and feared the technology could be open to abuse.

A number of local councils have bought the cameras to provide evidence in disputed cases. Wardens are only supposed to switch them on if they believe a confrontation with a motorist is likely.

But Nick Pickles, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “A tiny warning on a badge hardly constitutes telling someone they’re being recorded. At the very minimum it should be a legal requirement that the member of staff informs the other person they are being recorded, but in reality it’s just another attack on our privacy and treats every member of the public as being under suspicion…There is nothing to stop the cameras being activated in inappropriate situations and abused.”

Of course, we’re under suspicion. We’re always under suspicion. And the people who determine that – often – are barely capable of replacing the batteries in their one-size-fits-all electric handbook of who is a suspect.

Coppers throughout the United States already are wearing hat-cams, shoulder-cams, badge-cams, every device you can imagine to be used for recording any intervention with a civilian. Nothing is ever done when the narrative is broken by the copper turning off the device – or when it is switched back on. Field-expedient editing is common. And easier than dealing with the ever-popular dash-cam which has been used to convict police of abuse and brutality as well as to defend their actions.

If government wants to add to the omnipresent shield of surveillance than it must include the police as thoroughly as it does ordinary “suspects”.

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