Lapel cameras safety tool in animal control

KOREN ALLPRESS
Last updated 05:00 27/06/2014
michael murdoch
JOHN HAWKINS/ Fairfax NZ
SAFETY STANCE: Invercargill animal compliance officer Michael Murdoch gives a guest at the Invercargill pound a pat while showing off one of the lap cameras the unit has been trialling for 12 months.

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A scheme to help keep Invercargill animal control officers safe in dangerous situations is working well.

Invercargill City Council environmental and compliance manager John Youngson said animal control had been trialling video recording cameras and stab-proof vests for about a year.

"When [animal handlers] get into a potentially aggressive situation, they can warn the person that this will be recorded."

The cameras, worn on the lapel, were not recording at all times. There is a major issue these days, you are dealing with people under the influence of drugs and alcohol."

Animal handlers in other parts of the country had been threatened with being stabbed, Youngson said.

"I think it's become more risky out there and we looked at what we could do to improve [animal handlers'] safety. If you are taking away their dog it can become a volatile situation."

Animal compliance officer Michael Murdoch said he had used the camera about six times in the past year.

"If we get into tricky situations, they're handy," Murdoch said.

"A lot of people we deal with aren't very nice at times."

None of the recorded footage had been used as evidence, and in order to comply with the Privacy Act, the public had to be told when the cameras were being turned on.

The cameras had proven to be "pretty good."

"We say to people we're turning them on and people tend to back off a bit," Murdoch said.

Youngson said they could inflame the situation as well, and staff had to use their judgment.

"If things are getting out of hand they should first leave and regroup. But if they think turning the camera on will get them the evidence they need, or will defuse the situation, they'll use them," he said.

A review would be carried out to formally appraise how effective the cameras had been.

The cameras cost $100 each, but if wearing the cameras was shown to be effective, the department would consider purchasing higher quality ones, Youngson said.

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- The Southland Times

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