PETALING JAYA: There should be a proper mechanism to govern procedures for the operation of body-worn cameras (BWC) fitted on enforcement personnel, especially the police, says Malaysians Against Rape, Assault and Snatch Theft (Marah).
Marah founder Dave Avran (pic) said while the NGO welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement on the security measure, he suggested that law enforcement agencies take extra steps to protect its reputation and integrity.
“Body-worn cameras will certainly assist in issues of misconduct, corruption and deaths in custody.
“However, we have to accept that while these tools aid transparency and are the best available evidence that is neutral, they are not foolproof, ” he said.
“If the camera is left on at all times, data accumulates rapidly and storage becomes an issue.
“Secondly, the traditional method of recording is for the officer to turn on the device when recording is necessary, and turn it off when (they are) cleared to do so, hence introducing the possible element of operator override or error, ” he added.
He said the best method to follow is the “once recorded, it’s recorded” rule, with every frame encrypted and uploaded in real time to the cloud.
“The only people allowed to view the footage must be verified administrators or higher-ranking police chiefs, ” said Avran, who said the system must work similar to a digital evidence room.
He said people who want to view a video must be verified to access it and their viewing logged should be exactly as it would be if they were to enter an evidence room in a police station.
“The log must also keep track of what the viewing officer does to the footage, whether applying tags to identify the situation or copying it for their investigation or court use.
“The original video must remain saved as it is, ” he said.
Universiti Sains Malaysia criminologist and psychologist Associate Prof Dr Geshina Ayu Mat Saat said research had shown that the use of body-worn cameras enhance not only enforcement personnel’s compliance with procedures, but also improve interactions between the officer and the public – including suspect cooperation and reduces incidents of escalated violence.
She said other benefits evidenced in past research include restoring confidence in policing, reducing complaints against enforcement personnel and agencies, readily available evidence for use in court, as a mechanism reflecting professionalism in policing, and integrating the use of digital forensics for national security and safety.
“Past studies have shown that the use of BWC increases the transparency of frontline policing. Integrity can be reasonably assured.
“By using the BWCs, the officers will have reduced opportunities to commit law violation. They will find it more difficult to commit misconduct and have a higher risk of being caught if they do, ” she said.
Prof Geshina said the issue of personal rights to privacy could, however, be raised.
“As a counterargument, since policing does require a specific standard of integrity, transparency and accountability, using BWC as part of active police work in itself should therefore not be seen as a violation of personal rights, especially in the face of national security and safety, ” she argued.
Meanwhile, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador hoped the move could be realised soon.
“The body camera will help in enforcement duties and avoid any misconduct while on duty.
“The device can also be used as evidence for allegations of misconduct against the police force, ” he said.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced that policemen and other officers involved in enforcement would be equipped with body cameras to increase the level of transparency.
He said where enforcement officers had been accused of being high-handed, the cameras would be able to offer a truthful account.