Circumstances in which police firearms are drawn and deployed could soon be automatically recorded in NSW under a proposal to increase accountability.
NSW Police is planning to introduce Bluetooth-enabled firearms and Tasers to make it possible to record incidents on body-worn video (BWV) cameras as soon as officers draw their weapons.
Police Commissioner Mick Fuller revealed the plan during budget estimates last week to increase the use of BWV cameras, which currently rely on officers manually initiating recording.
The state's top cop said the proposal was part of “a much bigger piece of work” that will also see the force ditch its existing fleet of Fujitsu/M-View BWV cameras for devices that can ‘talk’ to the proposed weapons.
The force began deploying BWV four years ago to improve evidence gathering and to encourage good behaviour from officers.
As of July 2019, NSW Police has amounted 5217 body-worn video cameras – or approximately one for every three of the 16,000 sworn police officers across the state.
But the existing cameras rely on officers manually beginning recording during interactions with the public, which has raised accountability concerns.
Fuller said there was now an “assumption” that the cameras could talk to both firearms and Tasers, so that when officers draw either “not only does [an officer’s BWV camera] turn on but everyone’s turns on within 100 metres”.
“So where I want to be is that there is much more certainty from a Bluetooth perspective around mandatory videoing of those types of situations. But for that I will need technology,” he said.
“I certainly do not fear videoing much more often, but I do need to say that the BWV camera will have to be updated, our Glock will have to be updated and then the Taser technology will have to be updated as well.”
“They need to be Bluetooth-enhanced so that if an officer draws their firearms the Taser turns on, the in-car video turns on, any police camera turns on.”
The need for new BWV cameras to automatically activate when a firearms or Taser is drawn is the result of a decision by NSW Police’s Taser vendor to stop including a camera on the Taser.
“The manufacturers are stopping using the cameras because there is a fault in some of the Tasers between the camera and the actual electrical components of the Taser,” Fuller said.
“All of a sudden, I have a problem that the manufacturer is going to stop making them with cameras, so them all of a sudden ... the Taser does not talk to the body-worn camera.”
The current Tasers, which Fuller describes as “the best Tasers in the word”, are capable of recording one-and-a-half hours of footage through the ‘Taser Cam’ when an officer arms the Taser.
Fuller said the work would be the subject of a “new capital works program” request for government, which NSW Police is currently in the process of developing.
Updated body-worn camera policy
Alongside automatic recording when firearms and Tasers are drawn, Fuller also said the force was currently reviewing the BWV policy to ensure officers are using the cameras more often.
“We are against making it mandatory [that is] you turn it on the minute you hop in the car ... but we want to make the use of it much more often,” he said.
“We want police to use it to protect themselves.”
He said the new policy would look at introducing ‘trigger points’ for when a camera should be activated.
“Is it when you step out of the police car, is it when you do this or do that? Obviously we will look at that, but I want officers to use it more; I want the policy to really define when they need to use it more,” Fuller said.