Body camera roll out

2016-07-26 06:00
 Public Safety Officers (from left) Mzuvukile Siyazi, Brendon Booysen, Msimelelo Mgolombane and Zipho Nqata show off the Cape Town Central City Improvement District’s BWVs with CCID safety and security manager Muneeb Hendricks.

Public Safety Officers (from left) Mzuvukile Siyazi, Brendon Booysen, Msimelelo Mgolombane and Zipho Nqata show off the Cape Town Central City Improvement District’s BWVs with CCID safety and security manager Muneeb Hendricks.

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The Cape Town Central City Improvement District’s (CCID) six-month pilot project which equipped nine of its patrolling public safety officers with body-worn video (BWV) has proven to be such a success that the programme is now being rolled out to the entire security staff.

The nine-officer trial was launched just before the 2015 festive season and exceeded all expectations in de-escalating potentially violent situations, preventing crime and modifying the behaviour both of the public as well as that of public safety officers.

This according to Muneeb Hendricks, CCID safety and security manager, who says: “BWV cameras are cutting edge technology for law enforcement services globally and their aim, in a nutshell, is to keep everyone on the side of the law, honest and well-behaved. It’s about both behaviour modification and accountability.”

Round-the-clock deploymentHendricks says 75 BWVs have already been purchased and roll-out will take place over the next two months.

The BWVs that the CCID officers will use are designed for round-the-clock deployment because they are equipped with infrared recording capabilities for after dark, laser guides to indicate where the cameras are pointing and the ability to record video, sound and rapid multiple still images.

“Cameras are most effective as an immediate behaviour modification tool. If people know they’re being recorded they’re unlikely to escalate to violence in a potentially volatile situation. This applies to both the public and the officers themselves,” Hendricks says.

“They are also extremely effective in targeting specific types of crime, both covertly and overtly. From a covert crime prevention point of view, if you know, for instance, that drug dealing is going on in a certain area, officers can record from a distance and with the footage we can compile an evidence dossier. Overtly, we deploy the BWV officers in the hotspot and the drug dealers will leave because they won’t want to conduct business (on) camera, the footage of which can be used in evidence by our law enforcement partners and the police.”

Resolving complaintsAn important aspect of the BWV deployment is to ensure that the rights of the public are protected, Hendricks says.

“The use of BWVs has substantially reduced the number of investigations conducted when we receive complaints against our officers. We have always, and will continue to, investigate every complaint we receive, but cameras take the ‘he said, she said’ aspect out of the equation and we’ve been able to resolve cases far more quickly.

“They have been particularly effective in resolving ‘stop and search’ complaints against our own as well as our law enforcement partners when allegations have been made that money or personal possessions have been taken, as well as complaints that our own officers have in any way acted in an untoward manner.”

Protecting evidenceTasso Evangelinos, chief operating officer of the CCID, says a digital evidence management system has been purchased along with the cameras to enable all footage from incidents to be stored to protect the chain of evidence.

“This system allows us to securely store, manage and export digital footage as required,” says Evangelinos, “and only the administrator of the system can delete footage – not the user – so if the user has misbehaved on duty, that person cannot delete the footage.”

Evangelinos says all footage captured will remain the property of and in safekeeping with the CCID.

“We will of course make it available in criminal cases as required and it will always be available to law enforcement agencies and the police.”

Hendricks believes the BWV roll-out will have a dramatic behavioural effect on both the public and officers to ensure compliance with all laws and regulations.

“The Cape Town CCID is leading the international best-practice charge in South Africa in terms of safeguarding all members of the public in our footprint and ensuring that their rights are protected when they interact with our public safety officials. Ultimately this will make the streets of Cape Town’s CBD safer for everyone.”

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