This morning I saw a Gleaner report that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is now actually using body cameras in some divisions.
This seems to follow on from the launch of a pilot project last summer and I wondered if the promised protocol to regulate their use had been completed.
I am very disturbed to now see a press release this afternoon from the Independent Commission of Investigation (INDECOM) saying that the JCF has not yet shared with it – the independent oversight body – “the proposed procedures and protocols that will govern the use of the equipment, collection and storage of data, and subsequent viewing of the footage.”
The protocol regulating the police use of body cameras will to a great extent determine their usefulness as a tool to support both accountability and crime fighting. This has been clearly seen in other jurisdictions, probably best known in cases in the USA. Regulations regarding when cameras are turned on and off, how data is stored and protected, who has access to the footage and sanctions for failure to comply with the regulations are all extremely important. Also, a particular issue which has arisen in many instances in the USA is that of release of footage to the public. It is not tenable that body cameras are in use, but regulations have not yet been finalised and made public.
The importance of such a protocol has long been acknowledged. In January 2014, then Minister of National Security Peter Bunting “noted that a protocol will be established, making it mandatory for the officers to engage the cameras once they are going on an operation.” (JIS report, January 24, 2014) Similar assurances were given last year when the body camera launch took place. Perhaps Minister Montague or Acting Commissioner Grant could give a public update regarding the current status of this essential protocol.
Some Related Links
Jamaica Observer: Police finally wearing body cameras-February 21, 2017
JCF: Police Issued with Body Worn Cameras – August 27, 2016
Jamaicans for Justice: JFJ Welcomes Police Body Cameras, Calls for Strong Protocols – August 25, 2016
Jamaica Information Service: Body Cameras for Policemen – January 24, 2014
February 22, 2017 at 5:49 pm
I am puzzled about this, too. The guidelines should be made public – and that should include something on the use or possible use of footage in media, including social media (we are having plenty of issues with the latter already!) And who would the footage be made available to? Would it be stored somewhere?
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February 22, 2017 at 6:00 pm
It is really unacceptable that the cameras are already in use and the protocol hasn’t been shared even with INDECOM. I also strongly believe the public should know the guidelines; otherwise how do we know whether they are appropriate and whether or not they are being adhered to?