WA police officers will start wearing body cameras as part of their uniforms as soon as next year, after Commissioner Chris Dawson opted not to wait for State Government funding to implement the technology.
Mr Dawson approved the roll-out of the first initiative of the Digital Policing Program, earmarking funds within the policing budget for the cameras, claiming it helped provide the whole picture of an incident involving police.
“Body worn cameras are now commonly used in other policing jurisdictions, with potential benefits including improved evidence gathering and a greater opportunity to capture the whole of an incident rather than rely on piecemeal recordings,” Mr Dawson said.
“It’s increasingly a common situation where police are being filmed by bystanders, persons outside, CCTV from public spaces as well.”
“Body worn video has been found to be an effective way of capturing evidence and keeping all parties to account.”
200 cameras will be deployed in the first phase of the initiative to patrol and inquiry officers in the Perth CBD at the start of 2019.
Police officers will not have to have it on for 24 hours a day, but will be required to use them in circumstances including family violence.
They will also not be able to delete, amend or access footage that is captured.
Another 450 cameras will be introduced for the Traffic Enforcement Group and the Goldfields-Esperance and Pilbara by middle of next year.
3,500 cameras will be in use across WA by the end of 2021.
Mr Dawson said “the time is right now” to begin the program.
“We will commence the tender process next month, seeking a ‘full service’ provider to deliver cameras and digital evidence software solutions for frontline officers,” he said.
The technology was trialled in Perth and Bunbury in 2016 involving 500 officers, but did not reduce assaults on police, guilty pleas or convictions but many cases involving the technology had not yet been to court.
However, Mr Dawson said the cameras had a positive impact on policing.
“Feedback from our officers was quite positive, with 83 per cent of those surveyed agreeing the cameras improved their ability to gather evidence and take accurate statements,” he said.