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Brussels-West police join bodycam experiment

20:36 27/01/2020

Another Brussels police force has announced it is investing in bodycams to record how officers interact with suspects and the general public.

The Brussels-West police department is following the lead of the Brussels-Ixelles division, which made the move earlier this month.

The local force - covering Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, Jette, Koekelberg, Berchem-Sainte-Agathe and Ganshoren - has placed an order for 32 of the devices to be delivered by spring.

They will be worn by the police bicycle and motorbike units, as well as by officers who accompany the Stib on unannounced ticket checks.

"Each member of the police force equipped with a bodycam must say so during any interventions they make," a police spokesman said.

The cameras are attached to the front of an officer’s uniform - on their shoulder or chest - and are constantly recording.

Footage is instantly accessible for a month and then archived for a year. Images more than one month old can only be obtained upon request from the public prosecutor.

Bodycams are thought to help reduce police aggression by recording every move the officer makes, but the footage can also prove useful in investigations and officer testimony. The idea is to provide objective data in case of a conflict between police and suspects or other citizens.

"It is a tool that will be useful for both citizens and the police," said Molenbeek mayor Catherine Moureaux. "We see that when this tool is used, it quickly lowers the tension on both sides."

After a test phase, an evaluation will be carried out to see whether all frontline police officers in the area should be wearing bodycams.

Earlier this month, the Brussels-Ixelles police zone announced that it would soon launch a three-month pilot project that will see agents wearing bodycams as part of their uniform. For the test phase, 35 agents who patrol the areas, both in cars and on bikes, will be outfitted with the cameras.

Written by The Bulletin