Body cameras will cut down on assaults and complaints, says Garda lobby

Garda management examining the cost of outfitting members of force with ‘body cams’

The introduction of body cameras for police officers in the UK has greatly reduced the amount of complaints being made against police, GRA president Garda Ciarán O’Neill said at the start of the association’s annual conference in Wexford. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

The introduction of body cameras for police officers in the UK has greatly reduced the amount of complaints being made against police, GRA president Garda Ciarán O’Neill said at the start of the association’s annual conference in Wexford. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Body cameras would not only improve transparency but also cut down on the number of assaults on gardaí and help collect evidence, according to the Garda Representative Association (GRA).

The introduction of body cameras for officers in the UK has greatly reduced the amount of complaints being made against police, GRA president Garda Ciarán O’Neill said at the start of the association’s annual conference in Wexford.

“If it is good enough for many of the UK police forces, it’s good enough for us too,” he said.

“In an era of heightened accountability and transparency for police forces around the world, body cams are good for the general public, for the gardaí and will create huge cost savings in the criminal justice system.”

The theme of the conference is “STOP - Support and train our police.”

Garda O’Neill said that an average of 12 gardaí a week are being injured in the course of their duties. About 6,000 gardaí have been recorded as injured in the last 12 years.

Conservative

He said this is a very conservative figure as many gardaí do not record their injuries. The real figure could be twice that number, he suggested.

Garda O’Neill said body cameras would also bring significant savings for the criminal justice and Garda disciplinary systems as the cameras can show immediately if a complaint against a garda is valid.

“The time that’s been wasted on that, the evidence brought to court, the number of people who plead guilty on the production of evidence. All that in the criminal justice system would save money.”

Garda management is currently examining the cost of outfitting the force with body cameras and is set to make a report to the acting commissioner this year.

The association is also repeating calls for Tasers – devices which deliver a non-lethal electric shock - to be issued to frontline officers and for number plate recognition cameras to be fitted in every Garda patrol car.

Tasers are supplied to some specialist Garda units such the the Emergency Response Unit but not to ordinary gardaí or detectives.

Garda O’Neill said most officers who arrive first on the scene of critical incidents are unarmed frontline gardaí who have no means of dealing with an armed suspect.

“Tasers must now be rolled out for all frontline gardaí for their safety and that of the general public and also for the suspects.”

He said that nine times of out 10, the production of a Taser by a police officer and the activation of its red-dot sight are enough to make a suspect comply with directions.