A leading sergeant at Stawell Police Station supported a potential move which could see police officers across the state legally use body-worn cameras in their daily duties.
The state government introduced the new laws in parliament on Tuesday.
The Justice Legislation (Body-worn Cameras and Other Matters) Bill 2017 is the first tranche of legislation to support the use of body‐worn cameras when the devices are rolled out to frontline police next year.
The use of body-worn camera footage today could constitute an offence if police were to inadvertently record a private conversation.
Stawell Sergeant Bill Alford said the use of body-worn cameras would be an extra form of security.
“It is early days at the moment, there is a pilot program going on,” he said.
“But something like this could mean officers are more protected when dealing with the public.”
Sergeant Alford also said the high-tech cameras could be used to defend false claims made against police conduct.
“There are many frivolous claims against us, these cameras could be used as proof otherwise,” he said.
The state government will amend the Surveillance Devices Act 1999 to create an exception which enables police to use the devices lawfully and ensure footage is appropriately protected.
The reforms will pave the way for a subsequent Bill to support the use of body-worn cameras for recording statements in family violence matters and allow statements to be used by victims as their evidence-in-chief.
The legislation will implement a key initiative of the state government’s $596 million Public Safety Package to give police the powers, resources and tools they need to keep the community safe.
Minister for Police Lisa Neville also welcomed the move, describing the cameras as a “critical tool” in responding to crime.
“Body worn cameras will be a critical tool to respond to family violence issues and other crimes in our community,” she said.
“This legislation ensures that police have the powers they need, as we prepare to roll this technology out across Victoria.”
Field-testing of the cameras is expected in the first half of next year.
The use of cameras will bring Victoria into line with other states, including New South Wales and Queensland, where the groundbreaking equipment is already in use.