Vic Police 'failing to activate body cams'

·2-min read

Victorian police aren't activating body-worn cameras in some cases, potentially jeopardising evidence, transparency and the force's reputation.

In a report tabled in parliament on Wednesday, the state's auditor-general analysed camera data from March 2021 and found officers activated their devices in 83.6 per cent of required instances.

With 16.4 per cent of interactions unrecorded, the audit suggested there is a risk footage may not be available for key incidents.

That could result in weaker evidence, reduced transparency in complaint investigations and reputational damage to Victoria Police, the report said.

Body-worn cameras were first trialled by Victoria Police in 2017 before they were rolled out to all frontline officers from mid-2018 to November 2019.

The audit found the force does not consistently track all use of the cameras and does not know how compliant they are with activation requirements overall.

"While (body-worn cameras) present many opportunities for police to improve how they interact with the public and gather evidence, they also come with risks," the report said.

"Unmanaged, these risks can undermine a police force's integrity and accountability to the public."

Until recently, protection of the footage was at the mercy of a "weak password policy" that was not in line with the federal government's Information Security Manual.

Nor does Victoria Police follow all of the data security protocols that its body-worn camera contractor recommends.

"These weaknesses reduce protection of BWC footage and increase the risk of unauthorised internal access,'" the auditor-general said.

In addition, there were no clear and enforced expectations for labelling footage.

Only 51 per cent of files had dispatch IDs, making it more difficult for officers to review, find and use it as evidence.

The auditor-general made eight recommendations. Three have been accepted by police, including refresher training when there are major updates or changes in policies or equipment.

Another three were accepted in principal, including creating an improved compliance monitoring tool.

However, two recommendations - that audit logs are regularly reviewed to reduce the risk of mishandling footage, and developing a measure of outcomes in camera use in legal proceedings and complaints - were rejected by Chief Commissioner Shane Patton.

In his response to the auditor-general, Mr Patton said those recommendations were not accepted because Victoria Police already has a robust information security system and there are too many barriers in capturing the impact of the footage on resolving or assisting proceedings.

Premier Daniel Andrews met with Mr Patton on Wednesday about other matters and expects the body-worn camera performance data to improve.

"It's a big transition and a big change to go from no body worn cameras. I'm sure that when next we look at this, those numbers will come down," Mr Andrews said.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting