Police officers will start donning a bodycam to record their interactions with the public, in a €1 million investment by the government.

Police Commissioner Angelo Gafà said on Thursday that the bodycams will start being worn by officers for their own protection as well as for the protection of people they faced, with the footage proving useful in court proceedings. 

While the cameras will automatically start recording as soon as the officers draw their taser or firearm, the officers will need to manually switch them on when they come face to face with a member of the public but do not need to use any weapon.

Asked why the cameras should not remain constantly switched on and why recording was at the discretion of the officers, Gafa' told Times of Malta this would use up the force's data storage capabilities in a short time. 

However, he insisted it was the officers' duty to switch on the cameras as soon as they interacted with the public.

Cameras can stream footage live to a control room and will automatically go on if they sense another bodycam within 30 metres.

Officers will not be allowed to record their colleagues, people walking down the street or suspects during strip searches.

Victims of sensitive crimes could also ask officers to switch off the camera.

Officers will have no access to footage

Officers will not have access to footage, and recordings will be automatically deleted after 90 days unless an investigating officer asks for it.

In December, police officers had called for the introduction of bodycams as soon as possible, noting that the claim of a man being brutally beaten by the police for not wearing a mask in Paceville would have been settled much quicker had they already been in use. 

Bodycams are used by police officers across Europe and in the US. A Cambridge University study released in 2016 had shown that the introduction of bodycams cut down complaints by members of the public against officers by 93 per cent in just one year. 

In Malta, bodycams will be assigned to officers as soon as they clock in. All officers have been given a new ID card which will now sync with a particular bodycam that will be on standby. Cameras will be returned at the end of every shift. 

As soon as they are docked, the footage will be automatically downloaded. The bodycams are sealed and their footage cannot be tampered with. 

Gafa said transparency and accountability were essential and according to international research, bodycams increased officers' legitimacy and decreased false reports against officers.

"Nowadays, wherever you go, you will find six people shooting footage of an officer at work on their phones, however, the officers cannot show their side of the story," he said, adding that the bodycams will change this.

Bodycams also improved behaviour and interactions between members of the public and police officers, he added.

Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri meanwhile said that apart from the bodycams, the government also planned on investing a further €5million in the force this year, and the government hoped to move away from a "police force" towards a "police service".

The bodycam tender for a five-year lease of 500 bodycams and all ancillary equipment, has been awarded to Motorola Solutions Germany GmbH. 

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