Editorial: Police cameras are a sign of the times

Police sporting body worn video cameras: it sounds like something out of a fictional, futuristic novel or movie. Well, it would seem that the future is now. This concept is a reality.

The technology has been tested and adopted by police officers in several countries, including the USA and the United Kingdom.

It is also a reality in various Australian regions, including Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Victoria – and New South Wales. 

And it is about to become a part of the uniform for police in the Southern Tablelands. No doubt it will be a surprise, possibly even a shock, for many in the community, possibly an unwelcome sign of the times.

The question of privacy springs to mind, the same question that came to the fore when communities began introducing closed circuit TV cameras in public areas.

However, recordings captured on CCTV have become an integral part of policing in recent years, often helping to identify offenders and solve crimes.

We also live in an era in which nearly every man, woman and child has a smartphone and those phones are frequently used to record situations that are then passed onto police as evidence. The same concept applies to another popular device, the dash cam.

With these facts in mind, the argument for privacy in a public place has lost its relevance. It is clear that if you do something wrong in a public place, there is every chance it will be captured on camera.

The introduction of body-worn video cameras on police officers seems a natural progression. They will be activated for use in operational policing to record incidents or events in real-time where visual and audio evidence will support an investigation.

They will no doubt be equally important in boosting the safety of both officers and the community. In the first instance, those inclined to cause continued trouble in the presence of police may think twice about their actions. In the second instance, if they aren’t deterred from illegal behaviour, their actions will be captured on cameras, which can be used as evidence in court.

According to the NSW Police, research suggests body-worn video cameras have several benefits, including lower incidence and escalation of violence, improved officer conduct and professionalism, and improved offender behaviour. Such outcomes are good for all.