Caribbean Fever - Your ONLY destination to all things Caribbean and more
BODY CAMERAS ARE WIDELY USED BY POLICE IN THE US AND OTHER DEVELOPED NATIONS.
A project has been launched in Jamaica that will see police officers wearing body cameras. And local human rights group, Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), is hoping it will bring an end to “questionable killings” by law enforcement officers.
The way the island’s top cop sees it, though, the devices will “provide evidence against false accusations”. Commissioner of Police Dr. Carl Williams made that comment earlier today at the official launch of the initiative that is a joint effort between the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the US Embassy.
Under the project, 120 body cameras will be issued to lawmen from the St Andrew Central, St Andrew South, Kingston Eastern, Kingston Central, Motorized, and Traffic divisions of the JCF. They will be worn on the pockets or vests of the officers, and the data captured will be uploaded at the end of each duty shift.
JFJ says the measure is an important step towards normalizing a culture of accountability, and, if implemented properly, will bring the JCF closer to complying with its human rights obligations.
“When combined with other measures – such as unimpeded investigations by the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), improved record-keeping, and reformed firearms authorization practices – body-worn cameras can significantly help in bringing an end to the legacy of questionable killings by the police, and the historically deficient investigations that follow them,” the lobby group said in a statement.
“JFJ expects a Force-wide rollout of the cameras, with serious disciplinary penalties for any improper deactivation, obstruction, tampering, or alteration of the devices or their footage.
“ Jamaica cannot afford another cosmetic pilot project. That would only postpone, yet again, a potentially impactful element of police reform that is seriously needed. To effect meaningful implementation, JFJ stand ready to expand our existing training partnership with the JCF to support this initiative in any way possible,” it added.
The JFJ stressed that in order for the camera footage to be of value to investigations, robust controls on access and storage must be put in place.
At a minimum, the group wants the footage to be stored on secure servers, with remote backups available, and clear protocols for file handling to eliminate tampering.
“Officers engaged in operations ought not control activation and recording. Access to this footage by INDECOM and other oversight authorities should also be assured, as should its admissibility in court if and when demanded,” it added.
The JFJ and other human rights activists have long called for body cameras to be introduced along with a host of other measures, including greater reliance on less-lethal weaponry, and the installation of cameras in police lockups, to help address human rights violations arising from police-public interaction and detention.