MONTEGO BAY, St James — The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is awaiting a third tranche of 200 body-worn cameras for its members to wear in the field. The order, said to have been delayed by COVID-19 related disruptions in the supply chain, is expected to arrive sometime in the New Year.
Video culled from the 400 cameras now in use is processed by a data centre that is part of the JCF’s technology branch which has oversight for all things IT-related within the force. Roughly two years ago, as part of the JCF’s wider push to harness tech, the centre’s predecessor was revamped, renamed and given responsibility for processing and storing data captured by the body cams.
“In embarking on the mainstream usage of body cams in the organisation you have to do a great deal of back-end work. It’s not just about sticking body cams onto an officer,” senior communications strategist at the JCF Dennis Brooks told the Jamaica Observer on Thursday.
In addition to the hardware and software, he stressed, there was also a need to ensure that the methodology being used does not run afoul of data protection laws and is sound enough so that content can stand up against any assault in court.
“Without saying too much, you have to ensure that what you collect, you can store, and what you store meets evidentiary standards, to preserve chain of custody of things, and also that these things fall in line with the Data Protection Act and all of the other cyber legislations that now are a part of modern law enforcement,” said Brooks.
“And so in terms of our commitment to people’s data, privacy, in terms of our commitment to the broader cyber ecosystem within the legislative framework, all of these things are things that would have had to have been done,” he assured. “The data centre, as it is now, would have to be satisfying those things. …All of those things in the last two years would have been concretised.”
Key to ensuring that the data centre and the wider technology branch within the JCF is performing at optimal levels is the 60-member telecommunications division headed by Senior Superintendent of Police Norris Rhoomes. He would love to have more staff and recruitment is now underway but he is convinced that the methods now in place to train team members to use and maintain the body cam system are sound.
The cameras were sourced overseas from a vendor that also provided training.
“Persons here would have been trained in every aspect of what to do, from the pinning on of the camera to the extraction of the information,” said SSP Rhoomes.
He added that, if needed, repairs can be made by “sworn and unsworn members of the JCF” within the technology branch, so there is no need to rely on local vendors from the local private sector.
There has long been a call, from several quarters within the society, for lawmen to wear body cameras while on duty. This, proponents have argued, will provide protection for both sides as cops engage with members of the public. It has become popular for social media platforms to post videos of confrontations between the police and members of the public and comments are often critical of the cops. The JCF has often responded by saying that only sections of these videos that fit that narrative are being posted.
In April 2022, Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson said the JCF had 400 body cams in use and would buy 1,000 by the end of the fiscal year.
On Thursday, SSP Lindsay told the Observer that delivery is “dependent on the supplier”.
“We know the order was made but they’re still waiting on supply, because we know that the supply chain was affected by COVID. There are still some suppliers who are still getting back on stream,” she said.