Plan for cops to wear cameras

EXTRA AID: Justice Minister Judith Collins is said to be impressed with the body-worn video devices already used in some ...

EXTRA AID: Justice Minister Judith Collins is said to be impressed with the body-worn video devices already used in some countries.

The Police Association and Labour have backed police having cameras on them – but say the Government should wear the cost.

Fairfax Media revealed today that Justice Minister Judith Collins wanted to equip officers with body-mounted cameras in a bid to tackle domestic violence rates.

Association president Greg O'Connor liked the idea – but said police needed extra funding for the $1300 devices.

Video technology had previously worked to the advantage of police, when filming interviews or on Taser cams. But storing and processing the "massive" amounts of data, and maintaining the integrity of the chain of evidence was "time-consuming and expensive", he said.

"We were quite in favour of the Taser cams but what none of us anticipated was the chain of evidence requirements. That has added considerable cost to the whole process and that has had to be done within existing budgets," he said.

There was also potential for video evidence to be taken out of context.

However, he said colleagues in the US and UK had reported positive benefits, including cutting the number of complaints.

"Video interviewing of suspects was a huge positive because up until then there were allegations that we used to beat confessions out of people but it showed that we didn't," O'Connor said.

Labour's police spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern was also supportive – but "with caveats".

She said she had seen the technology in action while working with police in the UK. It encouraged women to follow through on domestic violence complaints.

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However, preserving the evidence and "managing the kit" was "a little bit onerous". "Quite frankly, the police are broke," Ardern said.

"I do see some real merits to it, but we have got to be really pragmatic about the police's capacity to implement [it].

"If [Collins] is really serious about doing it then she is going to have to make sure they are properly resourced because at the moment they are just not."

Collins was impressed with the use of body-mounted video on a recent visit to Britain. She said that when used in domestic violence incidents, there were more successful prosecutions.

Victims often did not have to testify because the footage was used alongside evidence of the police officer.

Police Minister Anne Tolley said she has no plans to introduce the smartphone-sized devices immediately, but police were watching their use in other jurisdictions.

A six-month trial of body cameras for high-security Corrections officers is about to begin in two prisons.

 - The Dominion Post


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