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Body cameras now for all law enforcement officers to curb corruption and abuse of power

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Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) is disappointed over the delay by the home minister in ensuring body-worn cameras for all police officers in Malaysia, despite an allocation of RM30m having long been approved in December 2022.

Thus, it is disappointing to note that it took about 17 months for the home ministry to even sign a RM28m contract to acquire body cameras for the police, which was done on 8 May 2024 at the infamous Defence Services Asia (DSA) and National Security (Natsec) Asia 2024 exhibitions (where controversy arose about the participation of companies that provided arms to Israel).

A manufacturer – or just a third-party company that will get products from a supplier?

As we are talking about police body-worn cameras, which record possible evidence, should not the Malaysian government be directly signing agreements with the actual manufacturers of these cameras, who will also set up the system and be available to speedily step in to remedy any hitches or problems? Such companies should not be able to tamper or destroy evidence?

Malaysia now has a digital security minister and ministry, and reasonably for police body-worn cameras and CCTV maintenance, this ministry should have been involved. Maybe, the ministry should be responsible for ensuring that the digital data from police body-worn cameras and CCTVs are secure and free from tampering.

What exactly is that contract for the body-worn cameras that was signed between the Ministry of Home Affairs and a Malaysian company, which on the face of it does not look like not a company that manufactures body-worn cameras or the required documentation system?

One wonders whether money is wasted by signing agreements not with companies that manufacture these security products but third-party companies? Was there even an open tender? Does the company even have the required security clearance?

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Body cameras for all 135,000 police officers – not just a few

There are about 134,978 police personnel and officers nationwide as of 28 February 2023, and the people deserve to know when all these police officers will have their body-worn cameras.

The reason for these cameras, among others, is to deter corruption and abuse of power by police officers and to protect the rights of people who have to have dealings with the police.

Many a time, corruption or bribe demands or the taking of bribes happens between police and the people. Allegations of police corruption or other abuses are difficult to prove by the victims – but with body-worn cameras with recordings, it changes the situation and makes it easier for police criminals and others to be prosecuted and convicted.

It also allows the government to be able to identify and remove bad police officers and restore public trust and confidence in the Malaysian police.

It is of concern, when on 31 January 2024, Commissioner Wan Hassan Wan Ahmad said 7,648 body-worn cameras will be supplied in stages to the police force starting in September.

This is unacceptable, as it should be supplied to all police officers, especially with those on duty, including police units involved in shootings that killed people.

Wan Hassan also said that training for patrol unit personnel would also be conducted from March 2025 to December.

Does that mean that these devices will only be effectively used in 2026? These devices should be speedily provided and should be effectively in use as soon as possible. It should have all been in place by mid-2023 at the latest.

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Madpet is very disappointed with Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, whose procrastination is indicative of the low priority he has placed on the issue of police body-worn cameras and CCTV at police stations, despite the many extrajudicial killings by police, deaths in police custody and allegations of corruption, torture and abuse of power.

Ulu Tiram police station extrajudicial killing – would body cameras and CCTV cameras have revealed the truth?

Malaysia has had cases of extrajudicial killings. Will all the police officers who were involved in these shootings that resulted in victims being killed be equipped with body-worn cameras?

The most recent death from a police shooting happened on 17 May 2024 at the Ulu Tiram Police Station. This was an extrajudicial killing of the suspect, which also caused the death of police officers.

Are there CCTV recordings at the police stations for us to establish the truth of what actually happened? If the Malaysian government had moved faster, we would also have been able to rely on police body-worn cameras. But unfortunately, the home minister failed.

Malaysian police have been plagued with allegations of corruption, abuse of power, torture, extrajudicial killings and deaths in police custody. To deal with these issues, body-worn cameras alone are not sufficient. We need more CCTV cameras with recording capacity at all places in police stations where suspects and witnesses are dealt with by the police. Police vehicles too must also be equipped with cameras that record.

Body cameras for all law enforcement officers, not just the police

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The problem of corruption and abuse of power also involves other law enforcement officers, including local government (local council) enforcement officers. As such, Malaysia must ensure that all these enforcement officers from the various federal ministries, state departments and the local government are also required to wear body-worn cameras with recording capability.

Madpet calls for the home minister to be transparent and explain the delay in the procurement of the body-worn cameras for the police, and how and why the company was given the contract.

Madpet calls for the digital or digital security ministry to be responsible for the collection and maintenance of all recordings of body-worn cameras and CCTV at police stations, to prevent police tampering of the evidence, especially in cases where the police may be suspected of crimes.

This is best, considering that the Malaysian police have previously been alleged [to have committed] evidence tampering, especially when police officers are the suspected criminals.

Madpet calls for body-worn cameras for all law-enforcement officers, not just the police, when they are on duty, irrespective of whether they are wearing uniforms or are in plainclothes.

CCTV cameras should be cover all areas of the police station and other law enforcement premises, and cameras should also be placed on law enforcement vehicles.

Charles Hector issued this statement on behalf of Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet).

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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22 May 2024 5.27pm

The practice to go through third parties is a time tested opportunity for certain parties to benefit.

And what more if no open tender is carried out. It is business as usual after all.

For all the talk of combating corruption, Anwar’s Madani government is simply treading on the same path.

And one can be sure that if an event occurs where body camera footage or the CCTV will provide clarity, there will be excuses of how the devices failed at the wrong time or such devices not mistakenly not turned.

After all, this is Malaysia Boleh!

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