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Give cops dash cams - Campbell

Published:Friday | May 4, 2018 | 12:00 AMCarlene Davis

While dashboard cameras have been introduced in several police forces around the world, Jamaica is yet to catch up, but local security experts are arguing that the time has come for this move.

Assistant commissioner of the Independent Commission of Investigations Hamish Campbell says that equipping police service vehicles with recording cameras is an essential element of modern policing.

"It affords protection for both police officers and the public and provides an added evidential tool to the police service," Campbell told The Sunday Gleaner.

"It ensures that evidence is correctly recorded to allow investigators and courts to understand the circumstances of any event. It also allows for transparency and accountability for police actions, which are constantly being challenged.

"It will further develop community confidence in the actions of members of the JCF (Jamaica Constabulary Force). There are no satisfactory reasons in 2018 for police vehicles not to be deployed with audio and video recordings," added Campbell.

He was supported by former deputy police commissioner and security consultant Mark Shields, who told The Sunday Gleaner that he could not see any downside to introducing dash cams.

"The fact is that we already have police officers with body-worn cameras. it is, therefore, a natural extension to include dash cams on vehicles as well.

"Anything that would assist in holding the police accountable and actually searching for the truth for every single incident should be seen as a positive, and I think from a policing perspective, they would welcome it as well because it would remove some of the spurious allegations made against the police. The fact that there is a dash cam or a body-worn camera clearly would work in their favour," said Shields.

He noted that in Russia, it is compulsory that every vehicle has a dash cam. According to Shields, Jamaica should adopt this practice and have every vehicle outfitted because among other things, they are an excellent way of gathering evidence when there is some form of collision.

"Yes, from a police perspective they are a good idea, but I would also suggest they should be fitted to every vehicle, and perhaps we could even offer a motor insurance incentive to people buying them in order, perhaps, for their premium to be smartly adjusted in the event that they have a dash cam that is functioning," added Shields

But Superintendent Courtney Coubrie of the Police Traffic and Highway Division says footage from dash cams is not something the cops are using at the moment for traffic accidents, but this could find its way into the regulations as the new Road Traffic Bill is being debated.

"Our Accident Investigation and Reconstruction Unit experts have to take photographs of accident scenes and to process it for it to be given as evidence in court ... . what would be useful is for you to take things like that to provide your insurance company. I don't see anything wrong with that. that's a necessary thing to do," said Coubrie.

Attorney-at-law Bert Samuels agrees that dash cam footage can be used in court but points out that this is yet to happen in Jamaica.

"The (law) allows computer-produced evidence to be admitted in court, however, there are some preconditions, which include the production of the experts who downloaded and transferred it from one cohort to another to give a certificate," noted Samuels.