Monday, August 24, 2015

The police and cop-cams

There's been a lot of good news over police body-cameras this year, suggesting that they are effective tools for collecting evidence while reducing both violence by and complaints against police. So why aren't they being used in New Zealand? Someone used FYI, the public OIA request site, to ask. The response was generally unhelpful, refusing to provide information because it was "publicly available" or given to them "in confidence" by foreign police services (while refusing to provide a list of withheld material allowing the requester to find it themselves or challenge the decision). But it did produce three files: a briefing note from 2008 proposing a trial of "Body worn video surveillance", a Police Executive meeting report from September 2013 considering a new trial proposal, and an "Initial Concept Paper" from December 2014 assessing their technological options. Key information:

  • Police interest in bodycams is being driven by the need to replace tasercams. Apparently the tasercam relies on its power-source, but this is flakey, meaning that "as... Tasers age, the battery condition deteriorates which can corrupt the camera footage and affect its operational & evidential credibility". The police recognise that there is absolutely no going back on tasercams (if only they had gun-cams too!), so they're looking at using body or head-mounted cameras as a replacement.
  • Incidentally, police tasercam footage is all held in an offshore cloud service, That's... interesting (it poses huge privacy implications around sensitive material), but it has also produced technological lock-in, meaning a sole-source procurement (and the police getting rorted as a result).
  • The limited trials they've done so far appear to have been successful, and attitudes from police are positive: "those few staff that have already trialled a body worn camera system endorse the use of body worn cameras 100%". That's very good to see. Unfortunately, all the management feedback on the idea has been redacted, without any reason given.
  • They appear to be moving towards a trial deployment in Auckland sometime this year.

So once again a positive story, though it once again highlights just how awful the police are at responding to OIA requests.