Israel police officers.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Israel Police plans to equip officers with 8,000 body cameras in a nationwide NIS 60 million effort, the police said on Thursday.
The police announced the effort after the conclusion of a nearly year-long study of body cameras around the world and a six-month pilot project, which saw a 35% drop in complaints at participating police stations.
“The encounter between an officer and a citizen will be better for both sides,” Tel Aviv District Dep.-Ch Yosi Bahar, who oversaw the project, told The Jerusalem Post
. “And of course if there are not-good events, we will handle them and this will be a tool to determine the truth.”
The body cameras along with vehicle cameras will be implemented across the country in 2018 to 2019. Officers will each have a personal camera, which are supposed to be manually turned on when the officer responds to an incident. According to Bahar, the officers are able to turn off the camera, if they respond to an incident involving certain instances of sexual crimes, minors or other cases which police say are not suitable to be filmed.
Once an officer finishes his or her shift, all of the camera’s video is automatically downloaded and stored in a database for at least seven years, with no option to delete or edit the footage.
Over the past six months, the police conducted a pilot program in which 138 officers in Petah Tikva, Holon, Beersheba, Haifa and Jerusalem’s Old City recorded more than 10,000 videos. The pilot found the cameras were a “significant tool” in the transparency of police activity and helped maintain calm during police interactions with civilians. Before implementing the pilot, the police established a training and certification program.
To implement the project, Bahar visited police departments in England, New York City and Atlanta, Georgia.
“Actually it is easier to implement [cameras] for police around the world, because they operate as local police, but in the Israel we operate as a national body, this makes the process much harder,” Bahar said.
There were calls for introducing police body cameras after thousands of Ethiopian-Israelis took to the streets protesting racism and police brutality. The protests led to the formation of an interministerial task force that recommended police wear body cameras.
“A camera on every police officer on the ground will bring about a revolution in the transparency of the police’s work visà- vis the public,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said in a statement on Thursday, “The cameras will moderate the policeman’s behavior as well as the citizen’s response, and this will create a significant change in every police meeting with the public.”