Police Forces worldwide have actively used video evidence to support criminal investigations and prosecutions at court. Sources of video content available include:
- Taser footage
- Police vehicle systems (in-car videos)
- Police hand held cameras.
The introduction of the Body-Worn Video (BWV) equipment will allow police officers to gather information and evidence as it happens. It will also provide police with the ability to present visual and audio evidence at court.
Over 2013/14 the NSW Police Force conducted an extensive trial of BWV. The trial successfully proved the BWV concept could be an important support to operational policing. Following the successful trial, the NSW Government announced $4 million towards the roll-out of BWV and amended legislation to allow police, in the lawful execution of their duties, to record in public places and private dwellings.
The initial roll out to support operational policing activities occurred in September 2015, with additional commands issued with BWV cameras in October 2016. The cameras are generally used:
- Where police believe it is appropriate to record the events taking place or the environment they are operating in.
- To record and incident or the use of a police power.
- To support the investigation of crime by gathering and presenting visual and audio evidence of an incident or crime or as part of brief of evidence presented to a court.
BWV cameras will be worn on a Police officer’s uniform/clothes in an overt manner and, where practical, members of the public will be advised they are being recorded. The BWV content will be securely stored, archived and eventually disposed of in accord with State Records Act Disposal Authorities.
Police will be trained in the use of the new technology and the new systems and processes will be implemented and tested. BWV cameras are currently being used by Eastern Suburbs, Kings Cross, Botany Bay and Kempsey Local Area Commands, Public Order & Riot Squad, Strike Force Raptor and Public Transport Command. Body-Worn Video will be progressively rolled out to other Local Area Commands.
BWV cameras record high-definition wide view vision (150 degree field vision capture) and high quality audio. Cameras will be used to record officer interactions with the public in all environments in which they operate.
When an officer wishes to capture content, record an incident or conversation, they will initiate recording by pushing the record button. The camera will then automatically back-capture at least 30 seconds of vision prior to the record button being pushed.
The BWV content is encrypted and securely stored on the camera. When the camera is downloaded, all content on the camera is wiped once it has been transferred to the secure police database.
The BWV camera has the capacity to take still photographs, record audio only and can operate in low-light situations.
The camera can also stream live content to police command positions which could prove very useful in some police operational situations.
Why are police using BWV?
Research identified from local and international trials suggest that BWV has great merit in the field of law enforcement. The ability to record events electronically as they occur has a range of benefits, specifically relating to the gathering of evidence. Police agencies using BWV have noted positive results and benefits, including:
- Lower incidence and escalation of violence
- Reduced 'not guilty' pleas and increased cooperation from the public
- Improved officer conduct, professionalism and reduced complaints
- Improved offender behaviour
- Increased time on patrol and reduced officer time spent on paperwork
- Video content for use in training and to support improved police education
- Reduced officer injuries
- Improved collection of evidence
- Enhanced brief of evidence preparation, including statements
Has the NSW Police Force trialled BWV?
Yes. In 2013, following reports of successful overseas trials, the NSW Police Force conducted an extensive trial of BWV camera technology. The trial was undertaken at Brisbane Water Local Area Command, South West Metropolitan Region Enforcement Squad, the Police Transport Command and the Public Order and Riot Squad. The trial was extended into 2014 using additional Local Area Command sites.
In May 2014 the NSW Government announced a $4 million dollar contribution to be provided to the NSWPF over two financial years to aid implementation of BWV technology into operational policing.
Which officers will be using BWV?
BWV cameras are currently in use at the following commands:
- Eastern Beaches Local Area Command
- Kings Cross Local Area Command
- Botany Bay Local Area Command
- Kempsey Local Area Command
- Police Transport Command
- Public Order and Riot Squad
- Strike Force Raptor
A Business Plan is being developed to allow for an extended roll-out of BWV cameras to commands across the state as soon as possible.
How does the BWV camera work?
BWV records high-definition, wide view vision and high-quality audio of officer interactions with the public in all environments in which they operate. The cameras will constantly view the environment but will require the officer to initiate recording to capture the content in the memory. The device is expected to back capture 30 seconds of vision prior to recording being initiated.
All recorded images are the property of the NSW Police Force and must be downloaded to the secure computer-based BWV Management System at the completion of each shift.
When will officers be using BWV? Will it always be on?
BMV will only record when the officer has initiated it by pushing the record button.
The use of BWV will be at the officer’s discretion and will generally be incident specific. However it is expected the BWV device would be activated:
- When police would normally use their official police notebook to record information (this does not replace the need to use a police notebook in such situations)
- To capture evidence or record something of relevance
- When exercising a police power
- Performing a policing function
- As part of first response crime and incident investigation
- General patrolling of Licensed Premises, public transport and other public areas
- Whilst conducting vehicle stops
- During conversation with members of the public which may relate to an incident, is relevant to an investigation, or is possibly valuable police or crime related information
- In situations where the use of force is anticipated
What will recordings be used for?
Body-Worn Video recordings are classified as ‘protected information’ under Section 39 of the Surveillance Devices Act and must be securely stored and managed. Recordings can only be used if permitted under Part 5 of the Act. BWV content can, for example, be used in connection with the exercise of a law enforcement function, to investigate and prosecute a criminal offence, to investigate disciplinary matters and for education and training purposes by the NSW Police Force.
The Surveillance Devices Act 2007 also prohibits the unlawful use, communication or publication of protected information. Section 40 of the Act creates offences for the unauthorised release of information by a person in the following circumstances:
- Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly uses, communicates or publishes any protected information
- Intends to endanger the health or safety of any person or prejudice the effective conduct of an investigation into a relevant offence
Penalties for such offences range from two (2) to seven (7) years imprisonment.
BWV will be used in accordance with the provisions of the Surveillance Devices Act 2007 and NSW Police Force Body-Worn Video Standard Operating Procedures and guiding principles for the use of Body-Worn Video Cameras.
The Surveillance Devices Act 2007 creates an offence for the unlawful use, communication or publication of BWV recordings.
All BWV recordings will be securely stored, managed and processed in line with relevant legislation, policy and procedures including:
Charles Sturt University are conducting an evaluation into the introduction of BWV to the NSW Police Force. We invite you to contribute to this research project by providing us with your feedback by calling 1800 388 397.
Below are some examples of other Police Force experiences with BWV technology: