The Israel Police will begin issuing thousands of body cams to officers across the country in a move it hopes will improve public faith in law enforcement, the force said Thursday.
Over the coming year, some 8,000 patrol officers, traffic cops, and municipal police will receive the cameras, police said in statement.
“This development will help increase the transparency of police activities and help to strengthen public faith in the police,” the statement said. “Body cameras are a significant tool in the transparency of police activity, and in restraining all those involved in police meetings with civilians.”
An initial pilot program that ended in January 2017 found that the devices helped reduce instances of police aggression and led to increased public trust toward policing.
Stations where personnel used the cams recorded a 35 percent drop in complaints against officers, the statement said.
Over the past year the police technology department reviewed various systems. One of the key demands was that the feed from the cameras be connected to the police computer systems in a way that preserved strict standards of information security to prevent deletions or tampering with footage.
“This project is considered a breakthrough in connecting the documentation to the police computer systems,” police said.
Bynet Data Communications beat four other companies to win the tender for the body cams.
Despite the largely positive feedback from police and citizens, the pilot program raised a number of concerns among legal sources, namely how to treat evidence gathered by the cameras and in what instances officers should turn them off, Haartez reported last month. Furthermore, police in a number of cases were able to view the footage before it was turned in for evidence, potentially compromising any internal investigation against them, the report said.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Police Chief Roni Alsheich initiated the drive to introduce body cams in 2016, less than a year after footage of police beating up an Ethiopian soldier, apparently unprovoked, sparked mass demonstrations nationwide against police brutality and alleged systemic racism.