Editorial: Smile - you're on canine camera

Last updated 05:00 28/06/2014

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OPINION: Animal-control officers in Invercargill are wearing lapel cameras. Our police aren't. Funny old world, isn't it?

The city council's officers are not only trialling the camera, but also wearing stab-proof vests. Before you get the wrong idea, nobody's suggesting that dogs are otherwise arming themselves or trying to bite people in the middle of the chest. The protections are against human assailants. The officers have been finding that some of the owners are capable of going a bit feral themselves.

So far, so good. None of the recorded evidence has yet been needed for evidence and people who have been problematically agitated with the control officers have tended to back off a bit when they are told the camera's being turned on. That's a warning deemed necessary to comply with the Privacy Act.

Obviously firing up the camera won't record what has happened up to that point - and which might potentially have a lot to do with why somebody is now het-up. But, if it's tending to be a calming behaviour, then so much the better.

Not everyone will react that way, unhappily, and as the council's environmental and compliance manager John Youngson rightly says, staff have to use their judgment.

Which brings us to the police. In New Zealand, if a police officer is filming you in tantrum mode, it's probably on a camera connected to a Taser. Police aren't using body-worn videos, though Justice Minister Judith Collins is thinking hard about it.

Overseas, they are being trialled in Britain and used in the United States, France, Denmark, Germany and Sweden. In Britain, it's domestic-violence callouts where they are proving most useful - a point that hasn't been lost on Collins.

Corrections officers have been trialling body-worn cameras at Auckland and Rimutaka prisons and so far are assessing the results as proving a deterrent for escalated behaviour.

Interestingly, in this trial, the cameras are capturing information but not retaining it until an officer presses a button which not only stores what happens from that point, but also keeps up to four minutes of previous footage. That's a facility that could prove very useful indeed.

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- The Southland Times

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