19 March 2019

ACT police to wear body cameras linked to their tasers and firearms

| Lachlan Roberts
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More than 480 kits will be rolled out across ACT Policing over the next year. Photo and video: George Tsotsos.

For the first time in the ACT, starting from this week police officers will wear body cameras that will be activated as soon as an officer pulls their firearm or taser gun.

More than 480 kits will be rolled out across ACT Policing in the next six months, as a result of a $2.7 million injection of ACT Government funding over four years, with general duty police, traffic members and criminal investigation officers to use the kits.

Whenever a taser or firearm is drawn from its holster, all body-worn cameras in close proximity are activated, recording multiple views of the incident.

Previously, tasers did have a video and audio capability but the new kit will have separate body-worn cameras.

More than making day-to-day work safer for officers, Deputy Chief Police Officer Michael Chew said the equipment will lead to quicker compliance by offenders and ultimately provides unbiased, factual information about an incident.

Deputy Chief Police Officer Chew stressed that the cameras would only be in use when an officer draws his/her weapon, but said it is ACT Policing’s intention at a stage in the future to open it up to broader use of the cameras.

“These camera systems are worn separately, on the officers’ uniform and provide significantly enhanced recording and functionality,” Deputy Chief Police Officer Chew said.

“The clear benefits will be a video recording of actions that police have within the community throughout normal duties and it will be very difficult to dispute the events that have occurred.”

Deputy Chief Police Officer Chew said other benefits included spending less time with written statements, the quality of evidence presented in court, and providing better protection for police against excessive use of force claims.

ACT Policing’s 2017-18 annual report revealed a 342 per cent increase in use of force reports in relation to tasers compared to the year before, with 199 reports – up from 45 – in 2017-18. The report suggested the increase in taser use of force reports could be attributed to more police officers being issued the weapons.

Deputy Chief Police Officer Chew said increasing body cameras and tasers should not be a concern to the public.

“The use of a taser is one of our less-than-lethal-force of options, along with our OC spray, our batons and our handcuffs,” he said.

“These kits are more about protection of officers in their interactions and to allow transparency in the community to see our interactions.”

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