Some gardaí have purchased their own body-worn video recorders, because they want evidence in case they are wrongfully accused.
However, they could be breaking the law, under the Surveillance Act of 2009, if they don’t warn people that they are being filmed.
Garda Representative Association president, Dermot O’Brien, said he was aware that some gardaí had purchased the recorders online.
He said he had a “distinct worry” that gardaí using them “could be putting themselves in a precarious position” with regard to the law, but understood why they want to carry them.
Garda O’Brien said that if the recorder was lost during a struggle, the footage could be posted online by an unscrupulous person, and the garda could face disciplinary action.
Garda O’Brien spoke after GRA delegates were addressed by a police officer who was instrumental in making their use commonplace in British police forces.
Inspector Stephen Goodier said they were introduced in Britain, on a trial basis, in 2007, but that now 56,000 frontline police used them every day.
Insp Goodier said they had many advantages, not least that judges used the footage to give out more appropriate sentences. And when culprits realised their actions were on tape, they usually pled guilty.
Low-level criminals can also be interviewed on film on the spot, instead of having to be taken to the police station. He also said complaints against police had dropped by up to 30%.
He said there were national guidelines on the use of the videos, and covert recording was not allowed.
“It doesn’t replace traditional evidence-gathering, it enhances it. Officers can’t delete, or tamper with, any videos,” he said.
Insp Goodier said legislation would probably have to be altered in Ireland for the recorders to be used and he questioned why the gardaí hadn’t been equipped with them. “You’re not doing it when rest of the world is?” Inspector Goodier asked.
Meanwhile, Garda O’Brien said garda management should put a policy in place to assist when gardaí were attacked online.
“Management needs to urgently provide us with support guidance and, most importantly of all, protection,” he said.
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