Police Wear Body Cameras in New Pilot Project

Officials hope to match results seen elsewhere in the world leading to a reduction in the number of violent incidents between police and civilians.

Israel Police at a crime scene (illustrative photo).
Shiran Granot

The Israel Police launched a pilot program Wednesday in which 150 patrol officers will be equipped with body cameras that will document their encounters with the public.

The project will operate for three to four months so that it can be evaluated and fine-tuned, but the goal is for all Israel Police patrol officers to begin wearing the cameras when on duty within a year. Police hope the presence of cameras will reduce violent interactions between officers and civilians, as has been the case in other places in the world.

The police officers will not have direct access to the video documentation. Every patrol officer will have to turn his camera on when going on duty. From the moment it is turned on, it is meant to be left on until the assignment is over.

At the end of the event the police officer must deposit the camera in a discharging box that automatically uploads the material to the police database. The police officer will have no way to edit the material; he will only be allowed to view it in order to write a report on the event in question or if he is involved in a subsequent investigation. The disadvantage of this method is that it is still up to the police officer to decide when to turn the camera on or off.

It isn’t clear how long the videos of people’s encounters with the police will be stored in the event no charges are filed regarding the documented incidents. The assessment is that every video, even if irrelevant, will be stored on the police computers for at least a year. Police say that the materials will be kept on a secure server and police will only be allowed to view materials related to an investigation they are involved in.

Although a decision has been made to launch this system, the police call on the public to express its opinion and to give feedback on their encounters with the camera-wearing police officers so that improvements to the system can be made.

The police will appoint a legal adviser to deal with the legal issues that may arise from the cameras’ use, particularly relating to concerns of invasion of privacy and freedom of information when people demand to see the videos. Station commanders or their deputies will be responsible for the project at their stations and police will be trained to use the cameras at the National Police Academy in Beit Shemesh.