Israeli Police Begin Equipping Officers, Including Riot Police, With Body Cameras

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An Israeli police officer wearing a body camera at the launch of the pilot program, August 2016.
An Israeli police officer wearing a body camera at the launch of the pilot program, August 2016. Credit: Moti Milrod

The police in the Tel Aviv district police began outfitting officers on Sunday morning with body cameras. At a ceremony rolling out the use of the cameras, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that 12,000 Israel Police officers would wear the cameras rather than the 8,000 originally planned.

Half of the cameras are to go into service this year and the other half next year. The plans now call for riot police and Border Police, who were initially not part of the plan, even though they frequently come into contact with members of the public under tense circumstances, to also receive cameras. Their initial exclusion was explained as a matter of funding and the priorities of the Israel Police, the national police force that provides policing services throughout the country.

Anne Suciu, a lawyer with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, was critical of the initial decision to exclude the riot and Border Police, writing at the time that it is precisely these officers who “experience significant friction with minority groups and are frequently involved in violence and inappropriate behavior.” For his part, Barak Ariel of the Criminology Institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who is considered an expert on police body cameras, said providing cameras to police in locations in which there is friction is important. “Otherwise the whole idea misses the point."

Sunday's ceremony came two days after police shot and killed a 24-year-old man, Yehuda Biadga, in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam on Friday. Biadga's family has alleged that law enforcement officers used excessive force against him after he threatened them with a knife.

In his remarks at Sunday ceremony, Erdan made reference to the case of Biadga, an Ethiopian-Israeli who is said to have struggled with a mental disorder. “I express great sorrow over the death of Yehuda Biadga and the harsh and tragic outcome of the incident in which he was shot.” Erdan said he expected the incident to be investigated quickly by the Justice Ministry's police misconduct unit. He would “make sure that all the necessary lessons are learned,” Erdan added.

Public Security Minister Erdan at a ceremony in Tel Aviv inaugurating the use by police of body cameras, January 20, 2019.Credit: Meged Gozani

“From our point of view, from the moment [the police officer] enters the patrol car on being called to an incident, [the officer] must begin recording,” Brig. Gen. Yossi Bachar, the head of the police technology administration, said. “Not using the camera as a result of problems with batteries will not be acceptable to us, and failure to use them to film an incident will lead to disciplinary action against the officer," he said, adding that it would be considered a serious failing if an officer stopped recording in the middle of an incident. It would be very difficult to explain.” The new cameras can record up to eight hours of footage.

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