WYFRS has recently used Silent witness footage, we believe, outside of the guidelines provided by the Information Commissioners Office. Details are shown below.
WYFRS policy states the intention of the scheme in policy as follows
b) CCTV systems mounted on fire appliances (Silent Witness):
Reducing crime in the form of assaults/attacks on firefighters by aiding prevention through deterrence and detection. Recordings of any attacks/assaults may be used as evidence against the perpetrators of such attacks
Reducing crime in the functions outlined under the 2004 Fire and Rescue Services Act by aiding prevention through deterrence and detection. Recordings of any incidents may be used as evidence against perpetrators
Providing a training knowledge pool to offer good learning experiences and improvements in operational tactics and command
Promoting community safety and education utilising the Media
We believe it has been used in several investigations into performance issues outside of the stated intention of the scheme shown above.
In Response to our complaint WYFRS HR Director Ian Brandwood e-mailed this response;
The Operational Policy clearly states that both video and audio recording takes place at all times whilst an appliance is operational and that crews should be aware that the equipment records both images and sound in the cab. Therefore all communications must be carried out in a professional manner. It also can be used for individual training or development needs, which almost by definition requires an assessment of performance.
If, during a review of footage for one of the stated purposes, evidence is identified that indicates actual or potential misconduct, the person who has witnessed the conduct cannot be expected to ignore such conduct and has a duty to bring this to the attention of an appropriate senior officer. This officer should consider the nature of the recorded conduct and deal with the matter in accordance with WYFRS procedures. This is in line with the Part 3 of the ICO’s Employment Practices Code:
I would like to emphasise that we do not routinely use Silent Witness to look for potential misconduct but it is only sensible that it is used to confirm or deny factual matters that may be subject to an investigation.
I do not think that this can be progressed further internally and we have to agree to differ on these matters. If, as a result of your complaint to the ICO, he expresses concerns about our practice, we will review our procedures.
We have been informed that the rationale provided for accessing the footage was to corroborate information that had previously been provided and determine the appliance movements via the AVLS information and also Silent Witness for any periods that were unexplained such as when the appliance movements had stopped for a period of time.
We are not disputing the fact that WYFRS can, when legitimately reviewing data, use it if there is an issue that comes to light that is so serious they can not ignore it, it is the fact that it has been reviewed in the first place, as part of an investigation into performance, which is not a function of the data collection as stated in the policy. It is certainly not the understanding of the Union or employees of WYFRS that data would be used in this way. This has been sent as a complaint to the Information Commissioners Office to clarify whether WYFRS have acted within the guidelines and legislation and instruct them to comply if necessary.
So please be aware that it is the opinion of WYFRS that they can and will use the data in this way.
As soon as I have a definitive response form the ICO I will post an update.
Paul Drinkwater (West Yorks FBU Chair)