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US to donate $45 million for police body cameras

Published:Tuesday | December 2, 2014 | 12:00 AM
BUNTING

Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer

THE UNITED States government has committed US$400,000 (J$45.4 million) to purchase body cameras for the Jamaican police, moving the long-anticipated project one step closer to reality.

Meanwhile, Minister of National Security Peter Bunting, who made the disclosure to The Gleaner recently, said Jamaica and the US have settled on specifications for the cameras and that the procurement process is already under way.

In the aftermath of the controversial police killing of popular cook shop operator Nakia Jackson in downtown Kingston, on January 20, Bunting announced later that month that his ministry would embark on a project that would see members of select units within the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) wearing body cameras.

He promised then that the project would be rolled out in the second half of this year.

Since the minister's announcement, KingAlarm Systems, one of the country's leading private security companies, has spent more than $25 million to outfit all its guards with body cameras while they are on duty, as well as to purchase the computer software required to monitor and store the images gathered and train staff.

However, during a recent interview with The Gleaner, Bunting shied away from giving another timeline when Jamaicans could see members of the JCF fitted with body cameras while they are on operations.

"They [US government] are the ones procuring the cameras, so it is within their procurement process, so as you can appreciate, it's out of my control," he underscored.

PILOT PROJECT

He revealed that as part of the search for the specifications best suited for Jamaica, some members of the security forces were outfitted with body cameras under a pilot project.

"So it's not that nothing has happened, but in terms of any large scale ... that we could outfit a division or an operational team in a division, we have not reached that scale yet," Bunting said.

Speaking during a post-Cabinet press conference in January, the national security minister said the body-camera project is to encourage police personnel to act in accordance with the JCF's professional standards, including guidelines governing the use of deadly force.

He said it would also protect the police from unfair allegations.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com