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Police New Body-Worn Camera Sparks Power Abuse and Privacy Fears Amongst the Public

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Singapore residents have expressed concern and worry over the Body-Worn Cameras (BWCs) which frontline officers from the Singapore Police Force have started wearing.

The public will know their interaction with the police is being recorded by a blinking red light on the camera which indicates it is in recording mode.

This body camera trial has begun with officers from Bukit Merah West Neighbourhood Police Centre, and by 2016, all frontline officers across Singapore will be wearing the body cameras.

The cameras will record both audio and video.

Of the 48 people that Redwire polled on the street, about half say they are against the move, many because they are afraid police might misuse video recordings.

Said Mr T Selvam, “Sometimes in the heat of the moment, I might say something out of frustration or anger which I don’t mean to say. What happens if it is totally unrelated, but the policemen want to pick and choose parts of the recording to fix me?”

About 4 in 10 respondents also said they are concerned with privacy issues.

Ms Alvina Chan said, “Sometimes when I am checked by policemen, I notice that some sicko ones will stare at my cleavage then act like nothing happened. I’m worried about who views the videos later because from the pictures, the cameras are worn on the chest and pointing at people. There are always 3 or 4 officers around, and I won’t know what they are video-ing.”

Mr Loh Kian Hua said, “It would make me very self-conscious and nervous to know every move of mine is being taped, and that might make me seem more suspicious and give officers even more reason to believe I did something wrong.”

Of those who were for the body-camera scheme say this will act as a check and on policemen, 6 in 10 said the move will help police collect crucial evidence that they might otherwise miss.

100% said the move is good as it will ensure policemen do not abuse their powers on duty.

The SPF says officers will be given discretion to stop recording in certain instances.

Footage will be kept on record for 31 days and will be deleted thereafter. It will only be kept longer than that if there is an open police investigation related to something on that footage.

The move is aimed at improving crime-fighting abilities.
The SPF says it is intended to help police gather evidence and they will complement existing evidence collection methods such as forensics.

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