UNC: Make police use of body cameras mandatory

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Rodney Charles. File photo/Sureash Cholai

The Opposition is calling on the Government to make police use of body cameras mandatory.

At its media press conference on Sunday, UNC MPs, Rodney Charles and David Lee addressed issues of crime and energy-related matters respectively.

Charles called for all 10,000 police officers to be given body cams or, at least, frontline officers.

In March, it was reported that police got an additional 1,000 body cameras for use which took the then total to 1,160. In July, it was reported that officers were being trained to use the body cameras.

Charles said the Opposition wanted the immediate, mandatory use of body cameras for all 10,000 police officers and he referenced six police killings which took place over the weekend.

“At the very least, for those many thousands engaged in frontline operations with criminals, they must be equipped with body cameras,” he said.

He said use of the body cameras will provide “irrefutable, visual evidence concerning the circumstances concerning any shootings by police.

“It ensures that all interactions between citizens and the TTPS are recorded and they conform to the requisite protocols of decency and professionalism.”

Apart from adhering to protocols of decency and professionalism, Charles said this will grow trust, goodwill and cooperation between the citizens and police.

The videos could also be used to show international agencies that TT is not a country characterised by extra-judicial killings, he added.

“The families of those killed by police must not go to their graves believing that their loved ones were unjustly killed and they go to their graves hating our police because not irrefutable evidence of innocence or guilt was provided,” he said.

Charles said this was also a way to protect TT’s “hard-working, law-abiding police officers” and get rid of the “few bad apples.”

He also called on the Police Social and Welfare Association to also call for body cameras for all front-line officers.

“If they do not insist on body cameras then they are abdicating their responsibility to those officers who have nothing to fear, who operate within the law and who would wish the world to know.”

Charles also called for the body cameras to be supplemented by CCTV coverage of hotspots. This will address citizens concerns and good policing will be acknowledged, he added.

He said the Prime Minister and National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds was not supplying the police with resources including body cameras and CCTVs.

Charles said if the Opposition returns to Government it will ensure as many officers as possible are equipped with functional body cams, it will develop a regulatory framework for the use mandatory use of body cameras by police and widespread CCTV coverage with 24/7 monitoring in all hotspot areas.

He added that the party would also examine the powers of the Police Complaints Authority along the lines of Canada’s Special Investigations Unit.

He added that this body keeps its citizens informed at every stage of an investigation.

“While the SIU does not prosecute, it gets the ball rolling, instead of allowing cases to languish for years,” he said.