PCA: Body cams help court cases

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo –

THE use of body cameras (body cams) by investigators can provide vital video footage for use as key evidence in court cases, the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) said in a statement sent to Newsday on Friday that answered questions this newspaper had posed earlier.

The PCA is an independent civilian oversight body on the conduct of individual police officers. It has its own civilian staff and does not use any police investigators.

“With respect to the body-worn cameras, we are leasing eight cameras on a three-year lease. The investigators are already in the field using these cameras.”

The PCA said body cams can help investigators manage their investigations more effectively.

“Body-worn camera footage can help the investigators understand and reconstruct what happened without having to rely solely on interviews.

“It can be used as evidence. This is probably one of the biggest benefits of body cameras for law enforcement – the ability to use the footage later on in a court of law, if necessary.”

The statement said these cameras were used in most developed countries.

“The high-quality video comes in very handy for investigators. The footage can clear police officers of serious misconduct. It can also clear police officers being accused of serious crimes including murder.

“The footage can also cause police officers to be charged with serious crimes.”

The PCA summed up its reasons for using body cams.

“Firstly, to protect our investigators when they go into the field, and secondly, to gather crucial evidence at crimes scenes.”

Asked if a sensitive witness could ask fort the body cam to be turned off during a witness interview, the PCA said yes.

“If during an investigation and at an interview stage, a witness wants the camera turned off, he/she can ask the investigator to do so and it will be done.

“We have a policy for the use of the body-worn cameras.”

In a statement on Thursday, the PCA announced its use of body cams, including for collecting evidence at crime scenes.

“The data will be captured and according to the protocols of the PCA, this will ensure compliance with privacy and evidentiary requirements.”

The PCA saw body cams as part of a wider move towards gathering evidence by digital means.

“We already use CCTV footage as well as evidence taken from cell phones. Now we are moving with the body cameras which will allow for a more transparent investigative process.”

Meanwhile the PCA has been trying to encourage the police to use body cams in their work.

In May 2023, Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher told the Joint Select Committee (JSC) on National Security the police had been given 1,200 body cams, but was unable to say if they were being consistently used.

In April 2023, the PCA told Sunday Newsday body cam footage was “one of the most useful and effective tools” to probe alleged police misconduct, but lamented the police did not always provide footage when requested.

Later that month, the CoP said police must use their body cams, saying, “Any breach of this policy will be met with the requisite disciplinary action.”

Northern Division head Snr Supt Miguel Montrichard told a subsequent JSC hearing in March 2024 body cam batteries lasted 1.5 hours, but police patrols took longer. JSC chairman Keith Scotland replied that police should have them switched on when in hot pursuit.