Body-Worn Cameras: A Secret Transparency Tool?

Susan Goffe tries hard to keep us focused on civil rights in Jamaica, and she is doing that again with concerns about the tardiness being shown by the police in developing and publishing protocols for the use of body care as.

I want to believe that Jamaica’s police force would do everything to offer us honest service with a high degree of integrity. Sadly, it comes with a history of doing the opposite. This delay in making operational an important tool in ensuring those two things causes worry for several reasons. One of these is the fact that police forces in many countries have shown that they are willing to be dishonest and show no integrity in their pursuit of criminals. Earlier this year, Baltimore police were caught by their own body cameras fabricating evidence. That shows an astonishing disregard for truth—to lie in full sight. Jamaica’s police force has also been charged with such actions, thought not with the clear evidence of their own cameras. I’d like to think that the incentives in Jamaica are stronger now for police officers not to be caught in the act of their own deceit, but we must also accept that many see ‘ends justifying means’ as a reasonable approach.

The use of body cameras promises much in terms of police accountability, but experience in the USA shows also many of the problems with video evidence, not least that it does not address fundamental flaws in the way police behave, and accountability does not change that much when police charged based on video evidence do not get convicted. (See Vox commentary.)

I look forward to hearing more soon from Police High Command that will reassure us on these points and others.

Right Steps & Poui Trees

I remain concerned that to date the public has no idea what protocols govern the use of body-worn cameras  by police or soldiers in Jamaica, although these cameras are now being used by the police here. Body-worn cameras are widely regarded as a tool that may enhance accountability and transparency in policing, bringing an additional source of information about interactions between the police and the public. Inadequate protocols governing their use can, however, completely undermine any benefit to be derived from the wearing of such cameras. How can the Jamaican public know if the protocols governing use of body-worn cameras here are adequate, if we don’t know what those protocols are?

Zones of Special Operations (ZOSO) Act & Body-Worn Cameras

The recently passed Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations)(Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act, 2017 makes provision for the wearing of body-worn cameras by members of the Joint Forces…

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