Body-mounted cameras are being rolled out to police in NSW under a $4 million program that will record all police interactions with the public.
Business Insider has obtained footage from the body-mounted cameras captured during trials last year. It’s the closest we’ve seen to the cop’s-eye view of policing in Australia.
One of the extraordinary scenes captures the first-person view of an officer in a heavily-armed team breaking down the door of a drug house. The police rush through the building, clearing the house as they execute a search warrant.
Other clips show police interacting with drunk and aggressive members of the public.
The scheme has obvious benefits: people tend to be on their best behaviour when they know they’re being watched. This has been shown to work in various studies where interactions between the police and the public are being filmed. And it has also been shown to improve the behaviour of police – they are less likely to break rules.
“Just to let you know you are currently being recorded by camera” is a phrase that tends to calm many situations.
The rollout will take two years to complete, with cameras to be worn on vests whenever police are on the job.
Research in the US has shown a sharp drop in street violence after police adopted body cameras as standard equipment. In Rialto, California, just outside Los Angeles, complaints against police fell 88% and the use of force by officers dropped by 60% after cameras were introduced in 2012.
The study into the rollout of cameras at Rialto says:
When we become aware that a video-camera is recording our actions, we also become self-conscious that unacceptable behaviours are likely to be captured on film, and the perceived certainly of punishment is at its highest. “Getting-away” with rule breaking is thus far less convincible if you are being videotaped.
NSW Police say trials of the cameras at various commands, including the Riot Squad, have proven to be a great success.
The service-wide project will start with the Public Order and Riot Squad, Police Transport Command and other highly mobile front line officers. The actual cameras that will be used are to be selected by tender.
Police list the benefits as:
- Changes in behaviour of potential offenders by virtue of merely being recorded;
- Providing police and members of the public with an independent and accurate recording of events, and
- Reduction in frivolous claims against police for misconduct.
The following clips are from body cameras worn by NSW police in various scenarios, including rescuing a man trapped on train tracks, dealing with a drunk at risk of being run down, raiding a drug house and patrolling Kings Cross.