'Spy' camera police 'treated people like idiots'
West Midlands Police "treated people like idiots" over the way more than 200 surveillance cameras were installed in parts of Birmingham with large Muslim populations, an MP has said.
The cameras - covert and overt - were put up earlier this year and were paid for with £3m of government money put aside for tackling terrorism.
But the communities were in uproar after they were not consulted, prompting the force to apologize and instigate an independent review by Thames Valley Police into what happened.
The findings were highly critical, saying the force paid little attention to "compliance with the legal or regulatory framework" and relations between the Muslim community and police had been set back 10 years.
West Midlands Police Authority was criticized for its lack of "scrutiny and oversight" on the project.
In response the authority said at a public meeting on Monday it is now considering five options over the future of the cameras:
One would see the scheme withdrawn and the cameras left covered, while another would see the withdrawal of the scheme with the cameras taken down.
A third option would see the cameras taken down and a smaller scheme implemented using 35 ANPR and 22 CCTV cameras.
A fourth option would be to deploy the cameras across the city to monitor anti-social behavior following consultation. The final option would see a smaller scheme run where the cameras currently are and use others across the city.
The Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, Chris Sims, said at the meeting he was in favor of removing all the spy cameras.
The authority will now look at the costs involved in their removal.
Roger Godsiff, Labor MP for Birmingham Spark brook and Small Heath, said the police overall had displayed "incompetence" over the way they behaved, believing they could "get away with" installing the cameras without needing to talk to residents.
"At a meeting with the police, some councilors seemed all right with it, some were suspicious but they didn't say 'how lucky are we in Spark brook for £3m to be found and given to us and nowhere else in the country', when, quite frankly it's really 'where's this from and what's behind it?'.
"So when police say they didn't lie, they're right, they didn't, they just didn't say and weren't properly asked.
"The tragedy is, if they had been up front and asked people then I think a good proportion would say yes."
Mr. Godsiff added: "The police must now hold their hands up and say they've made a mistake and take responsibility and do a proper consultation and write to everyone where the cameras are."
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