POLICE top brass sought to shoot down doubts expressed by Paul Richards about police officers wearing body cameras (body cams) at Wednesday's sitting of the Joint Select Committee (JSC) on National Security chaired by Keith Scotland.
Richards said in driving round during his daily routine he had not seen police officers wearing body cams, but Commissioner of Police (CoP) Erla Harewood-Christopher argued otherwise, saying 1,200 body cams had been distributed to be available for officers.
Richards interjected, "But are they being consistently used?"
Harewood-Christopher said, "At this point I cannot honestly say they are being consistently used. What I can indicate is that divisional commanders were instructed and mandated that officers when they go out on duty wear their body cam. That was two months ago."
She later said these were for "front line" officers but did not define this term and the JSC did not ask her to.
Richards asked if she had got reports from the divisions about any consistent application of this instruction.
Harewood-Christopher replied, "When I say 'at this time', because you said you have been driving around and not seeing (body cams). Based on your statement I will not say it is consistent." Richards said his views were only anecdotal.
Harewood-Christopher said, "Well I will say yes. They are in use."
Richards said, "Consistently?"
Harewood-Christopher replied, "Consistently, throughout the divisions, the front line officers...Mr Francis will address it."
Northern Division senior supt Kerwin Francis said, "My division is supported by two operational teams - Northern Division Task Force and the Operational Crime Patrol."
His division had recently received additional body cams
"My front line Task Force officers have been instructed and do wear the cameras. I do go out on operations with them and they actively use the camera.
"With respect to the monitoring of the use, I have also at times requested from the IT (department) a return of the uploads so that I can measure whether the cameras are effectively being used and the circumstances under which those cameras are being used. So I can attest to that fact at the Northern Division."
Last month Harewood-Christopher said she had instructed divisional heads to order their officers to switch on their body cams while on duty, after Sunday Newsday reported many officers had body cams but were not switching them on.
Saying body cams built public trust by enhancing police transparency, she had threatened "requisite disciplinary action" for any breach of her instruction.
After a fatal police shooting where officers had their body cans switched off, the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) in January 2021 had urged body cams be switched on. The PCA repeated their admonition in December 2021.
Harewood-Christopher otherwise told the JSC she was planning to rehire some retired police officers to train new officers. Asked about a lawsuit by 600 police constables seeking promotion to corporal rank, she said a procedure now exists to address promotions for them within a wider pool of 2,300 eligible constables.
She said the TTPS needs could not work alone against crime, but needed public support.