RLC in the Media: NSW Police body-cam discretion to stay

NSW Police will continue to allow its officers to choose when to activate body-worn video (BWV) cameras and when not to, despite calls from the legal profession to require that the devices be activated whenever powers are exercised.

Justin Hendry reports for iTNews

A statutory review of the force’s use of the cameras, released by the Department of Communities and Justice earlier this month, recommended no changes to the underpinning legislation.

Concerns with the “breadth of the discretion police are afforded” under the Surveillance Devices Amendment (Police BWV) Act were raised by several stakeholders consulted during the course of the review.

The Law Society, Legal Aid, the Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) and Redfern Legal Centre (RLC) were all of the view that “police should be required (by legislation or public available guidelines) to activate BWV in certain situations” such as when officers make an arrest.

The ALS and RLC also went further, suggesting that “police should be required to continuously record when in a public place, or at least during all interactions with members of the public”, while noting that this would obviously create “significant privacy issues”.

But the review said that “removing police officer discretion to record by mandating continuous recording … is not a practical solution”, as it would have privacy implications for both members of the public and police officers.

The review also contains the results of a Charles Sturt University evaluation of NSW Police’s use of BWV, which suggests “police BWV is meeting its intended purposes as an investigative and evidentiary tool”.

Of the members of the public surveyed, 87 percent were supportive of the use of BWV, as it increased accountability for both police and the community, though some were concerned that footage could be “manipulated by police due to the officer discretion”.

Read the full story here (iTnews, 13 August 2020)