Leicestershire Police respond to concerns over body cams 'with links to Chinese government'

Close-up of police body camera
-Credit: (Image: artas)

A Harborough councillor has written to the Chief Constable of Leicestershire Police raising concerns 'both for moral and security reasons' about the force's use of body cameras which he said were supplied by a company with "links to the Chinese government".

Harborough District Councillor Simon Whelband said the company, Reveal Media, has a Chinese subsidiary company, and also supplies a camera manufactured by a Chinese firm which provided body cameras to the Chinese government.

Coun Whelband said he sent the letter to the Chief Constable following recent concerns for Harborough District Council to replace their CCTV cameras which were made by Chinese company Hikvision, who he said had promoted security concerns elsewhere, with several councils removing the cameras in recent years.

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In response, Leicestershire Police thanked Coun Whelband and said that as a law enforcement agency there were a number of legal assurance frameworks they had to satisfy before they procured and deployed any technology. They said it was through these frameworks that they always robustly rejected suppliers like HikVision to the force, due to the issues the councillor highlighted.

Coun Whelband said: “I recently discovered that the local authority where I am a councillor uses the firm Hikvision for its CCTV cameras. This obviously raises very serious moral and security concerns, but I am pleased that they are now conducting a full review into their future use.

“However, further digging on this has shown that our local police also use a firm with links to the Chinese government. It is very worrying that both the local council and the local police force is using this questionable technology.

“Even more concerning is that the firm have supplied live facial recognition cameras to Leicestershire Police - only one of three forces to have this technology. Although the Force have stated in the past that they don’t use this function, I am seeking reassurances from the Chief Constable that this is the case.

“Leicestershire Police have also just re-equipped with new models provided by the firm, so I have questioned the Chief Constable as to why the force didn’t use this opportunity to get rid of the firm at this point, rather than going back to them for new cameras.

“Public bodies should be ending their reliance on these questionable companies, not embracing them.”

A force spokesperson said: "Thank you for taking the time to raise your concerns on this subject, which as you know has been subject to significant debate both locally and nationally. In particular, the Biometrics and Surveillance Commissioner has been active in this area and the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) have been engaged throughout.

"As a law enforcement agency, there are a number of legal assurance frameworks that we must satisfy before we procure and deploy any technology. To ensure that we have robust strategic oversight of this complicated issue, we have a dedicated strategic board that is made up of all relevant subject matter experts who advise on the technology we use within our force.

"In the articles you have cited in your correspondence, you highlight an example of a company called HikVision being used for CCTV purposes. Through the assurance frameworks we have in place we have always robustly rejected suppliers like HikVision as a supplier to our force, due to these exact issues.

"The use of body worn video (BWV) supplied by Reveal Media is no exception and has undergone a rigorous assurance process aimed at ensuring the protection of our infrastructure as we continue to embark on the digital ambitions we have set ourselves. Reveal Media themselves are an international company and whilst they may have subsidiaries that may have connections to the Chinese state, the cameras being procured and utilised by our Force are supplied via a national procurement framework that ensures we do not engage with these subsidiaries.

"In addition, as part of any procurement process we include rigorous assessments of Information Security to insure against issues such as unlawful access of our data. Whilst we use the cameras supplied by Reveal Media, as they are a market leader and supply devices across policing internationally, we have additional local protections in place that ensure our data remains within our control.

"Whilst we cannot go into detail about the various ways in which we protect our data and infrastructure, as I am sure you understand, we have no current concerns as to our usage of these devices. We keep our assurance processes under constant review, and if information comes to light that gives concern about our usage of these devices we would be able to respond accordingly.

"With regards to the use of Facial Recognition with these devices, this is a functionality that they currently offer. However, any use of artificial intelligence, including facial recognition, needs to go through the aforementioned assurances processes before we would authorise its use. At the moment this process remains ongoing and as such we do not utilise this function.

"We hope that this alleviates your concerns and we shall ensure that the points you have raised are communicated internally to our business leads who are actively engaged in the ongoing security of these devices."