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MPs at odds over body cams on police officers

body cameras

A bill on rolling out body cams on police officers and their vehicles is rife with “contradictions, inconsistencies and has serious potential for being unconstitutional”, Akel MP Aristos Damianou said on Wednesday.

Speaking after the House legal committee he called it a “very sketchy bill” with more than 10 points that contradict chapter 9 of the Evidence Act.

Head of the committee and Disy MP Fotini Tsiridou said the bill aims to protect police members from physical and verbal attacks, as well as unsubstantiated complaints. Additionally, the bill seeks to protect the public from any potential brutality from police officers. The third aim is to improve witness testimonies, in turn saving court time.

Tsiridou added the justice ministry had requested discussion over the bill continues so as to ensure it is implemented in a manner that respects the Evidence Act and constitution.

The deputy attorney general has been asked to attend the next session which will discuss the bill. MPs are also set to examine a study on current practices in other EU countries, as well the cost estimates.

Damianou also countered there had not been enough discussion with police member unions and slammed that police had not been entirely honest. Last year when there were discussions over recording witness statements, police’s leadership was negative about it citing a number of legal and operational reasons as well as costs, he said.

“Today a significant project like body cams on police uniforms is being discussed without the necessary study, evidence and no data on the public cost. We await the new justice minister to re-evaluate the bill because the way it is now, it cannot be accepted.”

Secretary general of the Cyprus police association Lefteris Kyriakou said they were not opposed to the philosophy of the bill. “We are in favour of transparency and this will protect our members from unsubstantiated and false reports. It will also protect citizens from any potential police arbitrariness.”

The association is opposed to the length of time that records will be held. As it stands, the bill specifies it will be kept for 30 days. However an investigation by the independent authority which examines reports takes much longer, Kyriakou said, arguing in favour of increasing the time records are stored.

 

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