PORT OF SPAIN — Two days after Beetham Gardens residents confronted police during violent protests over the shooting death of resident Christopher Greaves, Deputy Commissioner of Police Mervyn Richardson has said that in a bid to ensure officers act with transparency at all times, they will be equipped with small video cameras to monitor their activities.
Speaking at yesterday’s police press briefing, Richardson said the devices would be attached to the officers’ uniforms or person for instances when they had to go into hot-spot areas and would record exactly what had transpired.
“We invested in the body cameras because we saw it had an opportunity to boost the confidence level of the public. It is all about transparency and accountability,” Richardson said.
He said a note had been taken to the permanent secretary in the National Security Ministry to order 24 cameras for officers of the Inter-Agency Task Force for a pilot project later in the year. However, he said some IATF officers were already using the device on a trial basis but it would eventually be made available to other officers.
Asked what was the cost of the cameras which were ordered, in a telephone interview afterwards, Richardson declined to say, adding that it was not appropriate at this stage to do so.
However, Police Service Social and Welfare Association president Anand Ramesar yesterday warned his members to only wear the cameras on a voluntary basis, as officers had not been mandated to use the devices.
Contacted by phone last evening, Ramesar expressed disappointment that the association was not consulted by the police executive before the devices were purchased and put into operation.
“We are disappointed by the decision that is being made by the executive without engaging the membership,” he said. “This stands out as the many quick fix and sometimes cosmetic solutions being taken by the executive. At this stage, the use of the body cameras is purely voluntarily.”
He said the idea of the camera was introduced by Professor Sherman, of Cambridge University, who is leading an evidence-based policing initiative to tackle crime in hot-spot areas. The initiative, he added, was expected to start at the end of the month.
“As we understand this, the camera will be used to record interviews between police and civilians,” Ramesar said.
“I am not aware there is support by the membership for the cameras and that the devices would deter police officers in engaging suspects and other persons unless we believe it is an incidental free interaction.”
During yesterday’s press conference, Richardson also tackled the Beetham protest, saying if residents were arrested, that would have “triggered a greater storm”, especially since the majority were young pregnant women, young men and children who were used to form human chains.
But he made it clear that no one group would hold the nation to ransom, despite the cause. He said when he went to the Beetham on Monday, he went with aim of having a discussion with residents. He said, however, that it became clear to him that residents were bent on blocking traffic by forming human chains.
“Had we arrested the people then, today you would have been asking why we used such a high-handed manner,” Richardson said. (Guardian)