AUSTRALIA – Canberra Police push for lapel cameras (2012-06-13)

Published on June 13 2012 by admin

[[SUMMARY / COMMENT: The Canberra Police Union calls for video-cameras – the HD TASER Inc. AXON device – for “protecting police officers”: not citizens’ rights. Mr Torr said lapel cameras would record continuously while an officer was on duty – which is not the case, since they would only be activated at the discretion of the officer – with the footage overwriting itself after a certain period of time. The cameras would help collect crucial evidence on the behaviour of offenders. Greens police spokesman is worried.]]

Canberra Times, Christopher Knaus

The police union has called on ACT Policing to consider fitting video cameras that continuously record to the lapels of its officers.

The technology, which is being considered by Victorian Police, would provide vital evidence on an officer’s interaction with alleged criminals, deter assaults on officers and further protect them from complaints, according to the Australian Federal Police Association.

Chief executive officer Jim Torr has called on ACT Policing to investigate whether lapel cameras would be an effective law enforcement tool in the territory.

The proposal comes after ACT Policing confirmed it was in the process of purchasing high definition Taser cameras, which would record the moments before the use of the controversial weapon.

Mr Torr said lapel cameras would record continuously while an officer was on duty, with the footage overwriting itself after a certain period of time.

The cameras would help collect crucial evidence on the behaviour of offenders, Mr Torr said.

‘‘It’s frustrating, time and time again we see the swearing, spitting, violent thug when we arrest them,’’ Mr Torr said. ‘‘They turn up in court with a haircut, a shave and a suit on, and an angelic face.

‘‘That potentially flags consideration of [the cameras] broader rollout, because it’s very compelling evidence and we see it all the time.’’

In Victoria, some police officers have reportedly purchased their own lapel cameras from overseas to use while on duty.

Civil Liberties Australia director Tim Vines said the technology had value in helping to hold police to account, but warned that it could only be brought in with proper safeguards.

Such technology, Mr Vines said, was akin to a walking CCTV camera and raised similar privacy concerns.

‘‘We recognise police have a difficult job, especially police out on the beat, and that a lapel cam might assist them in collecting evidence and it may also deter them from assaulting police,’’ Mr Vines said.

‘‘We’d be very interested in seeing the proposal, we’d be willing to contribute to it because there are privacy concerns.’’

He said there would need to be adequate governance around the storage of the vision, appropriate use and access.

Greens police spokesman Shane Rattenbury said he would need to see the specifics of the technology before supporting it.

But he said the technology may deter people from approaching police to offer up information, fearing their anonymity would be lost.

Mr Rattenbury said there were also concerns about overloading police with equipment and technology, an issue that has been raised by police unions in other jurisdictions. ‘‘I think it would be important that the AFP does some thorough research on this, and I’m sure they would, and that that information was made publicly available so that members of the Assembly and the public can have a clear understanding of the pros and cons,’’ Mr Rattenbury said.

The union said it was keen to work with Chief Police Officer Roman Quaedvlieg to look at whether lapel cams would work in the ACT.

Mr Torr said he was also seeking briefings from Assistant Commissioner Quaedvlieg on the purchase of Taser cams.

‘‘This stuff is often driven by the association,’’ Mr Torr said.

‘‘We actually drove the decision to get rid of the old .38 revolvers to the self-loading handguns, which was a very distinct step in member safety.’’

While welcoming the move to introduce Taser cams across the force, Mr Rattenbury has questioned why the technology was not introduced in the initial rollout to front-line sergeants in August last year.

Since then, Tasers have been discharged three times by front-line sergeants, and twice by specialist response and security members. The Taser cams will also be equipped to the Tasers used by SRS members.

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