Body worn cameras rolled out for RBPF

Body worn cameras rolled out for RBPF

Cameras automatically record video, but require input from officers to obtain audio

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — While the 200 body worn cameras rolled out on the police force on Wednesday evening will automatically record footage even in standby mode, the cameras require intervention from the user in some instances to record audio.

The body worn cameras, Axon Body 2, automatically records footage from standby mode upon the officer attaching the equipment; however, an officer must operate the device by double tapping a button to record audio.

Upon doing so, 30 seconds of inaudible footage is included prior to the audio/video recording until the camera is double tapped once more to end the audio recording.

Police Commissioner Paul Rolle announced the rollout of the body worn cameras and 200 dash cameras in patrol vehicles during a press conference at police headquarters on Thursday.

He said the equipment will bring about a greater degree of accountability, improve the transparency of the police force and help to mitigate against some complaints against officers.

The 200 officers who compromise the mobile patrol, the flying squad and the rapid response units have all been equipped with body worn cameras.

Footage from a body worn camera, dated August 13 and labelled Axon Body 2, was played for the media.

It showed an officer behind the wheel of a police vehicle, exiting and engaging two men in front of a residence.

The first 30 seconds of the footage did not have audio.

However, as the officer engages the men a beeping sound can be heard — the officer activating the audio recording.

The officer asks the man where he works.

The man responds that he is landscaping the lawn.

The officer can then be heard asking the man for identification.

“Show me some ID please,” the officer asks.

The man presents a document. The heading of the document comes into view of the camera and reads: ‘Lawnscapes Limited’.

The officer questions the second man, who said he did not have identification, but could obtain it, before the footage comes to an end.

Asked about the specific function of double tapping the camera, the commissioner said: “That’s audio.”

Chief Superintendent Damian Robinson, the operations commander of the body and dash cameras, said the camera in standby is “always capturing”, but the double tapping of the device gives “30 seconds prior in silence and then you will hear the audio kick in”.

He said the officer cannot stop the device from capturing, nor can the audio levels be adjusted.

He also said as the system administrator he can view the recordings, but cannot make any alterations to any recording nor can an officer in the field as the footage automatically uploads to the cloud server.

He was asked whether there were consequences for an officer failing to activate the audio for the device when responding to a matter or intervening with a suspect or civilian, Rolle said: “We have the policy that they have to learn, which outlines, and there are consequences,” he said.

“There will be consequences if they do not follow those policies. He did not detail the consequences.

Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle (PHOTO: Royston Jones Jr)

However, he said: “The essence of it is you cannot tamper, you cannot shut your device off — that is one, and other operational stuff like that.”

According to the commissioner, the dash cameras double as a tracker and can provide audio of all conversations in the vehicles similar to a black box in an airplane.

The dash cameras are automatically activated upon the use of the police siren, and communicates with all body worn cameras in the immediate area and activates them to record, offering multiple vantage points of a scene in real-time.

“We don’t have 200 patrol cars, so naturally we have sufficient as it stands right now to outfit all of our vehicles, and then we also have Grand Bahama,” the commissioner said.

“And as time grows, we will expand that to the Family Islands as well.”

According to Rolle, between 60 and 70 patrols are deployed on any given day, not including Grand Bahama and other Family Islands.

He said dash cameras will record all conversations within the vehicle and its range.

“All of the conversations are recorded and so we can always go back, pull up the conversations and hear what was done,” the commissioner said.

Rolle said he has requested an additional 100 body worn cameras, noting a newer model has been released.

He said he had not received quotes for the cameras, but will provide the cost to the public once there is a commitment from the government.

He said it is the intention of the police force to equip all officers with body worn cameras in phases.

“We want to have enough, that every officer who goes on the road is able to have but we are doing it incrementally and I would like that at a point, you have the officers on the motorcycles, you have offices in the patrol cars

Additionally, officers attending public events such as Junkanoo can also be equipped with body cameras, Rolle said.

There have been complaints from previous events of officers allegedly beating civilians.

Purporting footage from observers on the sidelines of the 2020 New Year’s Junkanoo Parade showed several officers beating a group of men.

Scrutiny

Rolle said he expects to make footage available to the public on a case by case basis.

He advised, however, that footage required as evidence for incidents such as police involved shootings will follow the chain of custody and be handed over to Her Majesty’s Coroner.

“We are looking at the policy with regards to that and that depends on a number [of things] because there are some legal requirements in there,” Rolle said.

“It depends on if that evidence and what type of evidence, whether or not we would want to release, and then we may have to get the order from the court to have it released.”

To footage from police involved shootings, Rolle added: “We are not in charge of that, so I don’t know we will have that authority to just go and release it because those things will then be in the domain of the coroner, which means that once we take those and we hand those over, then I can’t go back in there because that is sealed.”

He said in other incidents footage provided to the courts for trial can be made available sooner for the media and the public as a means to garner assistance and spread public awareness.