Smile, you’re on camera


This is an example of a body-worn camera, popular with police

Depending how much you have to do with police and how hard you look, you may have noticed that these days most operational police wear video cameras of some description. It might be a little black box clipped onto their tactical vest; it might be a small lens tucked in under their epaulette. There is no uniformity, because there are many different types on the market and police buy their own so choose them on the basis of price or features. The technology has developed quickly and the price has dropped dramatically, so most police have invested in one. I’ve been asked a few times why police wear these cameras. There’s usually an overtone that police are trying to catch people out or trick them somehow – that the camera is a tool of deception and subterfuge. Not true.

Police rarely hide the fact that they are wearing a camera. They are quite easy to spot if you know what you are looking for. If you ask police about it, under normal circumstances, they will point it out. If you can’t see a camera, you can bet your bottom dollar that they will at least have an audio recorder tucked in a pocket somewhere. There is pretty much only one reason for it. Police record you for their own protection.

The recorder is the independent witness. It can tell the truth when everyone else is lying. Or has forgotten. Or was too stressed/excited/drunk to remember properly. People lie to police on a regular basis. They say things then vehemently deny them later. They accuse police of all manner of corruption, to try and get themselves out of trouble. It is a magical moment when some crook tells his stories in court, and then the police get to play the video recording to the jury. Court cases have completely fallen over the moment police play their recording.

But it works both ways. It also holds police accountable. It’s for your protection as well as ours. Someone makes a complaint about police – I was sworn at, man-handled – it’s likely there will be video. I’m all for that. Police should be able to justify their actions. Yes, I know these things can be doctored. But to do it properly takes the right technology and know-how. I’ve never seen it even attempted in a law enforcement setting.

It is a fact of life that we are being recorded on a regular basis. You fuel up your car – wave for the cameras; you do your shopping – it’s all on CCTV; catch a train – someone’s watching you on a monitor. And these days, pretty much everyone has a camera in their pocket. Even my dodgy old Nokia phone takes a reasonable photo, let alone the latest iphones with crystal clear footage. If you have a barney with your neighbours, don’t be surprised if someone starts filming. If you have a bingle in a carpark, take some photos – of the damage, the other driver’s rego plate, their licence. Even the driver themselves if it starts getting hairy. It is not illegal. Your insurance company will thank you, and if push comes to shove (literally) police will thank you. Our job is so much more clear cut if there is something more than “he said, she said”.

This is the way things are now. I think it’s important to be aware of it. And I recommend you use it to your own advantage.


18 thoughts on “Smile, you’re on camera

  1. I can’t believe they make you buy your own cameras! Shouldn’t they be standard issue like uniforms and weapons (assuming those things are too!)? I can totally see why they are necessary, although I must admit, I don’t understand how the vehicle cameras work. The last couple of times I’ve been pulled over, the first thing the policeman has said is that we’re being recorded on camera in his car but I can’t figure out how the camera can pick up at that angle with the police car directly behind mine. Not that it matters – I’ve nothing to hide! Just curious…


    • Thanks for your comment. It varies from state to state but Qld Police always cry poor on everything. We are only just getting GPS in our cars… so sorry, I can’t clarify that on the vehicle cams…


  2. My hubster used to work in the Development Control unit of our local Council – kind of like the building & development “police”. He also carried an audio recorder when he went out to inspect complaints etc, that could then be used in court. He was threatened many times by members of the public so I’m all for a video even more than an audio recording. We had an unlisted phone number etc for years due to the dangerous nature of his job – bit like being a cop I guess!

    Visiting today from #teamIBOT


    • Yes, carrying some sort of recorder is quite common in lots of different professions. I think people don’t realise how often they are being recorded. Hence this post. It’s just magic when liars get caught out.


  3. Gosh I wish I had one of those. Think of all the arguments I’d win when my teenagers are arguing that I never told them to lock the front door/not eat the chicken in the fridge/take the rubbish bin out!


  4. I can’t believe you’ve got to buy your own cameras! You’d think it be a mandatory part of the uniform requirements (although I’m sure you can claim it back). Gosh those days in court when you know you’ve got the winning hand must be fun!


  5. I didn’t know that police now have cameras on their person but I can definitely see why they need it. I was having issues with neighbours a few months ago (they were throwing broken bottles into my yard, rubbish and ripping palings off the fence etc) and a few people suggested that I set up security camera as department of housing wanted nothing to do with it. There are new people in there now and they seem to keep to themselves which is good.


    • Yes, it makes things alot easier now that cameras are smaller and more accessible. I have been thinking about writing a post about bad neighbours – common problems unfortunately. Thanks for your comments 🙂


    • It’s not compulsory, and they aren’t even provided in Qld, but most people do it. Even if you are just getting a traffic ticket, you’ll be recorded – if not on camera, then on audio at least. Thanks for your comment.


  6. Great and informative post and it’s a great reminder that taking photos in an incident is absolutely ok and legal. I’m all for police having cameras. Stories can be so misconstrued. The camera never lies


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