‘Body cam­eras not the an­swer’

Lewin says equip­ment not a crime-fight­ing tool

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Christo­pher Serju christo­pher.serju@glean­erjm.com

REAR AD­MI­RAL Hard­ley Lewin, for­mer chief-of-staff of the Ja­maica De­fence Force (JDF) and com­mis­sioner of po­lice, has come out against the use of body cam­eras by lo­cal po­lice as an ef­fec­tive tool in the fight against crime and im­prov­ing pub­lic trust.

Mem­bers of the Ja­maica Con­stab­u­lary Force (JCF) are now in train­ing to use the au­dio-record­ing de­vices, which are slated for roll­out on a pi­lot ba­sis in six po­lice di­vi­sions by month end.

“We are wrap­ping up train­ing and in an­other week or so they will be out there on the road,” su­per­in­ten­dent of po­lice at the In­for­ma­tion and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Tech­nol­ogy Divi­sion, Nor­ris Rhooms, told The Gleaner via tele­phone yes­ter­day. Per­son­nel from the Kingston Cen­tral, Kingston East­ern, St An­drew South, St An­drew Cen­tral, Traf­fic, and Mo­torised Pa­trol di­vi­sions will be the first batch to use the tech­nol­ogy.

How­ever, Lewin, who served as com­mis­sioner of po­lice from Novem­ber 2007 to De­cem­ber 2009, has slammed the idea of body cam­eras as an ef­fec­tive stand­alone strat­egy to im­prove the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the po­lice and the pub­lic.

“We have cer­tain fi­nite re­sources and I don’t think body cam­eras are the crit­i­cal thing right now. CCTV (closed cir­cuit tele­vi­sion) that helps crime fight­ing (but) body cam­era does noth­ing. All it’s go­ing to do is tell us how bad the thing is, but we are not deal­ing with the com­plex, hu­man, cul­tural is­sues that make the use of body cam­eras nec­es­sary. We are go­ing up the wrong road. We not pri­ori­tis­ing,” he told a Gleaner Edi­tors’ Fo­rum yes­ter­day.

How­ever, even as he ad­mit­ted that there was some value in the use of CCTV as an ef­fec­tive crime-mon­i­tor­ing tool, the for­mer chief-of-staff warned against pro­mot­ing the use of tech­nol­ogy over hu­man in­ter­ac­tion. “We are try­ing to use tech­nol­ogy to solve some com­plex hu­man is­sues and we’re not tack­ling the de­mand­ing work of some very ba­sic func­tions of ac­count­abil­ity, man­age­ment, and so – and go­ing with tech­nol­ogy isn’t go­ing to fix it. We’re fol­low­ing and be­ing se­duced by ev­ery First-World thing we see on TV. It is stupid!” he de­clared.

Spokesper­son for Ja­maicans for Jus­tice, Su­san Goffe, said that leg­is­la­tion gov­ern­ing the use of the equip­ment do­nated by the United States govern­ment was not yet in place. So the ques­tion of how the recorded ma­te­rial would be stored, ac­cessed and avail­able to the pub­lic, as hap­pens in the United States, re­mains a mat­ter of con­cern. In­spec­tor Rhooms told The Gleaner that his divi­sion was in the process of pre­par­ing a doc­u­ment on be­half the Min­istry of Na­tional Se­cu­rity to in­form the leg­is­la­tion that will even­tu­ally be pre­sented to Par­lia­ment.

How­ever, dur­ing the of­fi­cial launch in late Au­gust, Rhooms said the sys­tems would be put in place to min­imise the chance of the equip­ment or the sys­tem be­ing abused.

This is be­cause the of­fi­cers will have to sign for the cam­eras be­fore go­ing on an op­er­a­tion, a process which will in­clude fin­ger­print. The cam­eras will be on dur­ing the op­er­a­tion, and at the end of the duty, shift of­fi­cer must sign off when re­turn­ing them and the footage up­loaded to a spe­cial data­base, by au­tho­rised per­son­nel. Chances of the equip­ment be­ing tam­pered with are re­mote, Su­per­in­ten­dent Rhooms told The Gleaner at the launch. “Dur­ing that time (when it is be­ing re­turned), a su­per­vi­sor would be there to sign for it, check it that it is not dam­aged. He (the of­fi­cer) can­not go in and edit (or) delete any­thing. If he doesn’t turn it on and some­thing hap­pens and he can’t give a good rea­son why he didn’t turn it on, he would be in prob­lems be­cause this is go­ing to be a part of stan­dard pro­ce­dure,” he ex­plained.



A sample of a body cam­era which could be worn by lo­cal po­lice.

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