Murrumbidgee police are now decked out with body cameras, which they say will bring safety and peace of mind to both officers and civilians alike.
The ‘Body Worn Video’ (BWV) cameras have been rolled out since 2015, with the laws changing to accommodate their use in public places and private situations. However the rules for civilians filming or recording police have not been altered.
The cameras must be worn in plain sight on the officers’ uniform, and are activated to record incidents or events in real-time where visual and audio evidence will support an investigation.
While footage from the BWVs has not yet been used in court in the MIA, officers on the ground in Griffith, Leeton, Coleambally, Darlington Point, Rankins Springs say it has already helped in dealing with a number of volatile situations.
Murrumbidgee Police District Commander Superintendent Peter O’Brien said the cameras will support officers and complement other strategies aimed at tackling crime.
“BWV will play an important part in our ongoing commitment to officer and community safety in the Murrumbidgee Police District,” Supt O’Brien said.
The ‘M-View Matrix’ camera records high-definition wide-view vision and high-quality audio, with a capability to take still photographs, record audio only and record in low-light situations.
The footage is encrypted and safely stored on the camera, and once downloaded onto the secure police database, all footage on the camera is erased.
“The cameras will be an excellent tool to assist investigations by directly recording criminal behaviour and providing officers with a contemporaneous, unequivocal account of an incident,” Supt O’Brien said.
“I want to reassure the community our officers have received training on the appropriate use of BWV and members of the public will be informed if the camera is in use.”
However it must “specifically be overt” as prescribed by the Surveillance Devices Act. On the flip side, the rules of filming and recording of police by civilians are less straightforward.
The NSW Police Force Media Handbook says members of the public have the right to take photographs or film police officers in public spaces or from a privately owned place with the owner’s consent.
There are occasions, however, when police can legally prevent people from filming, including when they are performing covert operations or any situation where there are safety concerns for bystanders. They can also seize a recording device as evidence if they believe it has captured a crime.