FOOTAGE from body-worn cameras proposed for Victoria Police officers should be available to people making complaints about alleged police misconduct, a Bendigo-based community legal group believes.
Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre was one of 27 groups to sign a joint-letter to Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton expressing concern about various aspects of the body camera trial.
Body-worn cameras for police was recommended as part of the Royal Commission into Family Violence, with a trial scheduled to begin next month.
Legal groups are concerned that the footage will only be accessible for Victoria Police, the Professional Standards Command and the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission.
They are also calling for the cameras to be used during all critical encounters, following issues in Queensland when the cameras were switched off during the search of an individual. The groups want penalties to be imposed on officers who fail to activate their cameras.
LCCLC executive officer Hayley Mansfield said body cameras could improve accountability, community confidence and community safety if appropriate measures were put in place.
“However their effectiveness is largely determined by the regulations governing their use and it’s critical that Victoria Police have sufficient accountability measures in place that protect both their officers and community members,” she said.
“The proposed trial denies access to this body worn camera footage to both the complainant and their legal representatives.
“In order to effectively support members of the public if they wish to make a complaint about police misconduct, and any subsequent litigation or criminal proceedings, the footage must be available to complainants and their legal representatives.”
The legal groups that signed the joint letter also called for “clear information” about data retention. They want a minimum retention period of 90 days, rather than the “ad hoc” approach seen with the retention of CCTV footage.
No legislation is planned to be introduced focused on the use of body-worn cameras, and the directions for their use will be contained within Victoria Police policies.
The trial will include 200 cameras for police at Epping and Ballarat. The state government plans to add 11,000 cameras by 2020.
Police minister Lisa Neville said the rollout would give Victoria Police “the most advanced technology in the country”, and described body-worn cameras as a “critical tool” to respond to family violence issues.