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Israeli police roll out body camera initiative

150 officers initially to wear cameras in move to increase public trust in the badge, provide key details in allegations of brutality

Israeli police officers will start wearing body cameras in a new trial across the country, as part of a wider effort to boost confidence in law enforcement officials.

Unveiling the new initiative, Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alscheich and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said the first stage will involve 150 patrol officers and five teams of traffic cops donning the cameras. The measure will then be extended to all patrol officers in Israel.

“I am sure that the project will strengthen public confidence in police and it will also moderate police behavior and also influence citizens’ treatment of police on the street,” said Erdan.

The cameras will be in operation at all times, with the exception of cases involving sexual assault — when the alleged victim will not appear — in hospitals, schools or other sensitive institutions. The cameras will not be operational during public demonstrations.

Alsheich said the initiative will help keep police officers and citizens alike in check.

Chief of Police Roni Alsheich at the Knesset, March 29, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Chief of Police Roni Alsheich at the Knesset, March 29, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Until now, everyone filmed the police and the police [officer] was the only one who didn’t film. Every video uploaded to the internet showed every possible perspective, except that which an officer saw when he or she exercised police authority. In order to evaluate a police officer’s behavior, that’s the only [perspective] that’s relevant.”

According to the police, the cameras will be placed in a prominent location, so that Israelis are aware they are being recorded. The recordings will only be seen by authorized personnel. Steps will also be taken to ensure that the footage is not publicly released, unless a particular case justifies it.

The Public Security Ministry has earmarked NIS 40 million (USD $10 million) for the project, the police said.

The move to put cameras on cops came just a year after footage of police beating up an Ethiopian soldier, apparently unprovoked, sparked mass demonstrations nationwide against police brutality and systemic racism.

In May, the Israel Police launched an initial investigation into the police beating of an Arab employee of a supermarket in Tel Aviv, an incident which was documented by several eyewitnesses to the alleged attack, including with photos and video. The police have said the man, identified as Maysam Abu Alqian, 19, from Hura in the Negev, was resisting arrest and attacked officers after they asked him for identification. Another employee who came to Alqian’s aid was also accused of attacking officers.

A photo of Maysam Abu Alqian taken after plainclothes police officers beat him during an arrest in Tel Aviv on May 22, 2016. (screen capture: YouTube)
A photo of Maysam Abu Alqian taken after plainclothes police officers beat him during an arrest in Tel Aviv on May 22, 2016. (screen capture: YouTube)

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