Western Australia has become the latest state to equip its frontline police with body-worn video cameras, in an effort to deter violence towards officers and collect better evidence for court.
WA Police wants to buy 260 devices to deploy across four sites as part of a six-month trial of the same technology that is already being rolled out in Queensland, South Australia and NSW.
The trial will help the police decide whether or not it will invest in a broader deployment of the cameras across its roughly 6000-strong frontline police force, and work out how much the full implementation is likely to cost.
WAPOL wants to know whether body-worn video cameras can help it hit a number of targets including a reduction in assaults against police, in the use of police force against members of the public, and in police complaints; as well as more guilty pleas in court, plus any time savings that could come from using the cameras to conduct police interviews in the field.
“Body-worn cameras are more than just another device in the wearable technologies revolution," tender documents claim.
“These devices—worn on helmets, jackets and lapels—have the potential to be a powerful means of protecting both the citizen and the officer and delivering public service for the future through digital law enforcement."
The trials are set to take place within units of the central metropolitan and Bunbury commands.
The WA Police said “officers will have some discretion to judge what to record, or not record, in accordance with policy/standard operating procedures”.
It echoes the stance of Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart, who has also said his officers will have the power to turn the camera on and off, but will face questions if they fail to capture significant events.
The scheme will add weight to the ‘police perspective’ of incidents in an age of ubiquitous filming.
“Given that police now operate in a world in which anyone with a cell phone camera can record video footage of a police encounter, body-worn cameras help police departments ensure events are also captured from an officer’s perspective,” the documents state.