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Police Body Worn Video Cameras

Over the last five years, there has been an increase in the use of body worn video (BWV) cameras across Police Local Area Commands in NSW. Yet, often when...

Justin Wong

Over the last five years, there has been an increase in the use of body worn video (BWV) cameras across Police Local Area Commands in NSW. Yet, often when individuals are approached by police wearing a BWV camera, little is known about how they work and what police can do when using them.

What is a BWV camera?

The BWV camera records audio and visual using a high definition wide angle shot. When a police officer has activated the camera a red flashing light should appear on the top left side of the camera. When activated, the device will record at least 30 seconds for back capture (without any audio). The BWV camera is usually clipped onto the front of the police officer and is intended to be used in an overt and obvious way.

Why do police use BWV Cameras?

The camera is primarily used to gather and present evidence. Police, however, also state that it is used for:

  • ‘Behaviour modification’ of offenders
  • Lower incidence of violence
  • Increased guilty pleas by defendants
  • Increase public cooperation with police
  • Improve officer conduct.   

When can a police officer use a BWV Camera?

Police can use the BWV camera at their discretion, but it must be in the execution of their duty and it must be overt. Their Standard Operating Procedures suggest should use the camera:

  • When police would normally use their official police notebook to record information
  • To capture evidence or record something of relevance
  • When exercising a police power
  • First response crime and incident investigation
  • Licensed premises inspections
  • Vehicle stops
  • Conversations with members of the public which may relate to an incident

A police officer is not to covertly use a BWV camera.

Can police use their BWV Cameras when conducting strip searches?

Yes. According to the Standard Operating Procedures, the Searching Officer is to turn off their BWV camera if they are wearing one, but the Support officer is to record the search using their BWV Camera.

These procedures further state that “a person’s privacy is not a sufficient reason to cease filming a strip search conducted in the lawful execution of an officer’s duty”.

Police officers must still comply with the Law Enforcement Powers and Responsibilities Act 2002 which would prohibit, for example a male police officer recording a female suspect during a strip search.

For more information, see our blog post on strip searches here.

Do police require my consent to record me?

No. Police do not require the consent of individuals before recording. It is, however, considered to be best practice for the officer to tell the person that they are being recorded on a BWV camera as soon as reasonably practicable.

If you have been charged, following a BWV camera recording we can help. Contact us on 9025 9888 or leave an enquiry on our website to speak with one of our criminal law specialists.

Reference: https://www.police.nsw.gov.au/safety_and_prevention/policing_in_the_community/body_worn_video

Photo Credit: https://www.police.nsw.gov.au/about_us/workforce_improvement_program/research_analytics_and_strategy