The benefits of body worn cameras
Regulatory agencies throughout Australia and internationally now use body worn cameras (BWCs). AMSA field staff will begin using BWCs from late 2021 to provide extra security, transparency, and for use as evidence.
AMSA inspectors often conduct vessel inspections alone in isolated or remote areas. The new BWCs will be a great asset to help protect staff and improve officer safety.
Research shows that the use of BWCs has many benefits including:
- deterring negative behaviour
- making it easier to review conduct complaints
- reducing how often offenders refuse to pay infringements (and instead choose to go to court)
- providing supporting evidence in the investigation of breaches of legislation
- deterring bribes offered to inspectors.
The BWC will be worn by AMSA inspectors and can be used to capture both video and audio interactions.
Using BWC technology is best practice in safety and transparency. Agencies worldwide use body worn cameras when conducting Port State Control inspections. AMSA adopting the same practice is great news for Australia’s maritime industry.
Use of BWCs during inspections
AMSA inspectors will wear the camera and it will be turned on while they are on official duties. The camera will not always be recording. The inspector will decide when to start or stop a recording depending on the situation.
Inspectors will record for a reason or a purpose in line with their inspector’s powers conducting official AMSA duties.
BWCs will be worn openly on the uniform of AMSA inspectors. When a camera starts recording it will beep, and the LED lights on the front of the camera will turn red.
While recording, the camera will make a beeping noise every two minutes, and the LED lights will flash red.
AMSA inspectors will notify people directly involved in the inspection that it is being recorded. They will also request consent to record the conversation.
However, AMSA inspectors also have legislative powers to make recordings that do not require consent. This mostly relates to recording ‘things’ such as vessels, premises, and things on vessels and premises.
Additionally, consent is not required if it cannot be gained in time to record:
- an observed breach of AMSA administered legislation
- non-compliant behaviour that will lead to compliance or enforcement action being taken
- an incident that is about to, or has, occurred
- aggressive, abusive or obstructive behaviour directed at the inspector that hinders them in the performance of their duty.
Storage, access and use of footage
AMSA will upload the footage captured on our body worn cameras to a secure video management system. All data is stored securely in Australia. The footage is only available to authorised individuals. All access to BWC footage is tracked and is regularly audited.
Non-evidentiary footage will be kept for 30 days. Other footage will be held for periods determined by legislation and AMSA policy.
Authorised individuals can produce redacted or edited copies of recordings. This will be to protect privacy or for other considerations. The original file can never be overwritten or altered.
To access footage captured by AMSA staff, please apply through AMSA's freedom of Information (FOI) process. An AMSA FOI officer will assess FOI requests and this may incur a fee.
To apply for a copy of the recording, please email AMSA's Freedom of Information Unit: FreedomOfInformation@amsa.gov.au.
More information about the freedom of information process is on the AMSA website.
For all other requests to view or access footage, please contact AMSA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recordings may be used for prosecution and will be shared with Commonwealth, state and territory prosecution agencies and the courts as part of the prosecution process.