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France orders thousands of body-mounted cameras for police

© AFP / Pascal Guyota: A French policeman carries a minicamera

Text by Tony TODD

Latest update : 2014-08-18

French police will soon be routinely equipped with body-mounted video cameras following a year-long experiment that has been judged a success by officers and police unions.

An initial order of 4,500 of the cameras has been made for the police service, France’s interior ministry confirmed on Monday.

A separate order will equip France’s Gendarmerie, a police force which is branch of the French armed forces that works predominantly in the countryside and in smaller towns.

The cameras, made by French military optics manufacturer Exavision, can film up to six hours of video with sound and permanently keep a record of the last 30 seconds, so that actions that take place just before the cameras are “switched on” can be recorded.

The devices will initially be used in designated areas of high crime, known in France as “Priority Security Zones”, where their experimental use has been deemed a huge improvement by officers.

Police chiefs said the experiment, which involved with 235 cameras used over a year from May 2013, saw not one violent incident during questionings or arrest when the cameras were used.

“The behaviour of people being arrested or searched improves dramatically when they know they are being filmed,” Richard Mousset, General Secretary of the SDPM police union, told FRANCE 24.

Fewer false complaints

“It also takes a huge burden off the police,” he explained. “Very often, suspects who have been arrested make complaints of police abuse or racism, and these are nearly always followed-up with some kind of enquiry.

“With filmed evidence, these complaints are obviously far fewer,” he added. “The police can do their jobs with confidence.”

Not everyone is happy about the police, who are often filmed by mobile-phone wielding members of the public when making arrests, taking the initiative to record arrests and searches.

“Carrying a camera is not a guarantee that police officers will behave by the book,” said Jean-Pierre Petit of the “Souriez, vous êtes filmés” (Smile, you’re on camera) association that fights against the proliferation of CCTV surveillance cameras in France.

“These cameras can be switched off and turned back on again as and when the officer decides,” he told FRANCE 24. “I don’t believe that this will serve justice any better as it will only reinforce the feeling of a police state.”

Date created : 2014-08-18

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