Garda could soon be wearing body cams
The Government has approved proposals that will allow gardaí to wear body cams and extend the use of automatic number plate recognition, Laois TD and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, has confirmed.
Changes announced will pave the way for recording devices, including body-worn cameras, to be used by Gardaí. Minister Flanagan said it would help with policing.
“The use of body-worn cameras by modern police services around the world has increased dramatically over the last five years or so. The evidence available suggests that they can greatly improve police frontline capability with the accurate recording of incidents.
"They provide a contemporaneous evidence capture and a clear unambiguous record of particular events and interactions such as at public order protests. Their deployment can lead to an increase in admissions and early guilty pleas. Most importantly, their usage may increase public trust and build confidence in policing generally,” he said.
A Department of Justice statement said the use of body-worn cameras will form part of the wider Garda Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) management strategy, to ensure a consistent and standardised approach to the management of all recordings.
It said the legislation will also provide a legal basis for the extension of the circumstances in which automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) devices may be used by An Garda Síochána. The Department of justice says recording and storage of images will raise some privacy and data protection concerns but these will be fully addressed in the legislation following consultations with relevant stakeholders.
New legislation will also be drafted which will codify police powers of search, arrest and detention and the procedural rights and safeguards underpinning the exercise of those powers.
“Policing must be both effective and fair. In order to protect the rights of all, the Gardaí must have powers that curtail the rights of some, such as searching, arresting and detaining a person. These are amongst the most coercive powers the State can exercise, so it is imperative that there is clarity and transparency in the extent of those powers and codes of practice as to how and when they can be used. This legislation will codify the existing powers which derive from diverse legal sources and provide much greater clarity,” said Minister Flanagan.
The Minister noted that work is progressing as a priority in his Department on the Policing and Community Safety Bill, which it is claimed will redefine policing to include prevention of harm to those who are vulnerable and place an obligation on relevant state agencies to cooperate with An Garda Síochána in relation to the broader issue of community safety.
The announcements arise from recommendations of the 2018 Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland report.
“I am delighted that the Government has approved the preparation of these two key pieces of legislation recommended by the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. The Commission set out a clear vision for policing in Ireland, a vision that will ensure we have more visible policing within our communities with the best possible resources in place to support, protect and keep all our people safe.
"We are making important progress and this work remains a high priority for my Department. We will continue to support An Garda Síochána in progressing a number of crucial actions in the months ahead, including further workforce modernisation, a review of discipline processes within An Garda Síochána and delivery of a new pilot local policing model,” said the Laois TD.