RM30 mil bodycams for cops: More than meets the eye

By Julian Tan


PRIME Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin recently announced that the Government has set aside RM30 mil to purchase bodycams to be worn by the police. The move is aimed at protecting the men in blue from slander by criminals or irresponsible parties and boost their morale.

The use of high-tech policing tools is usually welcomed, although there are also drawbacks for the enforcement officers as well as the public. Our eyes and ears are no match for machines, which do not suffer from perception bias.

Mischievous members of the public who hope to smear our men in uniform carrying out their duties would have to think twice once the enforcement officers start wearing these digital eyes and ears. Besides, the recordings can be used as evidence in court, if necessary.

But the use of such devices should cut both ways. In the same fashion it protects enforcement officers from slander, they should also be used to ensure that these people carry out their duties with utmost professionalism.

Recently, a spate of news reports about alleged sexual harassment against female drivers by the police at roadblocks mounted to enforce the movement control order (MCO) has only confirmed public suspicion about some amorous bad apples in the force.

In April last year, a police inspector in Petaling Jaya was charged for abducting and raping two Mongolian women in a hotel after stopping the duo at a roadblock.

Just as the public would think twice about making baseless accusations against the police wearing such bodycams, the cops too, would shy away from unprofessional conduct while going about their jobs. Any misconduct – whether by the public or the police – would be recorded for posterity and could be tendered as evidence in court.

So far, details on the bodycam have been sketchy. Will it be worn by police mounting roadblocks and on their beat only? What about those interrogating suspects or witnesses?

Are the cameras switched on at all times or only when protocol requires it to, such as when speaking to or detaining a suspect? How long will the recorded footages be stored?

These are among the pressing questions the Inspector-General of Police needs to answer. The last thing the public wants is the lop-sided use of the bodycams where it would shield errant law enforcers from action but expose the public to legal suits or even criminal charges.

As it is, there are enough double standards in enforcing COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs), and we don’t need to add bodycam policing to the bag. – April 1, 2021


Julian Tan is a Focus Malaysia editorial contributor

The views here do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia

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