Wednesday 25 May 2022

Police, rail workers fear bodycams could be used to monitor them

Police badge and radio.

Photo: Depositphotos.com

The introduction of bodycams for public transport workers and police has been delayed because workers fear the footage could be used against them, the AD reports on Monday.

‘Workers are really concerned the images will be used for purposes other than to protect their safety,’ Rail union FNV spokesperson Christa Burger told the paper. This is why the police and railway operator NS works councils want written guarantees that the footage will not be used to monitor staff, the AD writes.

NS has already piloted the use of bodycams and the Amsterdam police force has recently started a trial. But the controversy has meant that a year on, rail workers are still not wearing a bodycam. An NS spokesman told the paper talks with the works council are ongoing. An evaluation report of the trial will not be made public, the NS has said.

Rotterdam public transport company RET is going to try out the bodycam in July but RET ticket inspectors only agreed to the trial if the images are shown only to the public prosecutor in the case of the prosecution of a passenger.

The police central works council has also said it doesn’t want the camera footage to be used to monitor staff behaviour.

Some 32 pilots are being planned in the police force but no agreement has been reached yet about conditions regarding privacy.

Staff safety

‘As far as I’m concerned the images have no place in disciplinary investigations,’ the paper quotes works council chairman Rob den Besten. ‘It’s the safety of our staff that’s at stake. The agreement at RET could be a way forward.’

According to Rejo Zenger of privacy protection organisation Freedom Inc police and ticket inspectors are right to be worried. ‘Many police officers are certain the bodycams will help them do their job. But there is no evidence for that. Privacy is definitely an issue. People sometimes have to take split-second decisions under difficult circumstances while their superiors can rerun the footage thirty times,’ he told the paper.

There are also worries that the presence of a camera will provoke aggression. ‘We simply don’t know. This will come out in the test as well,’ RET works council chairman Henk van der Maden told the paper.

According to police commissioner Jan Pronker the use of the bodycam will increase police officers’ safety. ‘Someone who knows he’s being filmed will think twice before he misbehaves. International research has shown that the number of incidents of violence against officers falls when bodycams are worn,’ he told the Parool.

But according to Sander Flight, who conducted a literature study on the effects of bodycams in the US, England, Canada and the Netherlands for the police academy, the data to confirm this are simply not available.

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