Alpine Council to be first in North East and possibly regional Victoria to adopt body cameras for rangers

Cameraman: Ranger Craig Devonshire with the units used by Lismore Council in northern NSW to record aggressive behaviour over issues such as car parks or dog seizures. Picture: LISMORE COUNCIL
Cameraman: Ranger Craig Devonshire with the units used by Lismore Council in northern NSW to record aggressive behaviour over issues such as car parks or dog seizures. Picture: LISMORE COUNCIL

BODY cameras are set to be used for the first time in a North East shire to tackle troublemakers.

Alpine Council is planning to have its two local laws officers wear the cameras, so incidents of aggression and violence can be recorded and used in prosecutions.

Wodonga Council is willing to consider the cameras, but Albury mayor Kevin Mack said his city had no plans to adopt them.

Both NSW and Victorian police have plans for officers to don the cameras, but are yet to set a date for their introduction on the Border.

Alpine mayor Ron Janas, a retired Myrtleford policeman, said there had been some “small incidents” that had prompted the move to sport the cameras.

“It’s all about workplace safety, the technology is there so why not use it?” Cr Janas said.

“It’s a tool of the trade these days.”

The council is seeking public feedback on its body camera policy until April 8 with their use expected to be approved at the shire’s May meeting.

It declares cameras should not be used for unauthorised purposes, such as practical jokes, taping private conversations or covert surveillance, with disciplinary action likely in response.

Alpine is believed to be the first regional Victorian council to adopt the cameras, with $800 allocated to buy two units.

Melbourne’s Boroondara Council introduced them in January with mayor Jim Parke saying “research has shown the proven effect of body cameras in modifying aggressive behaviour”.

In NSW, Lismore Council began using the body cameras last September after a trial.

Evidence recorded by the camera was used in a parking-related prosecution and as a result the offender changed his initial plea of not guilty to guilty and was convicted.

Legal concerns are believed to have contributed to Albury Council’s reluctance to introduce them.

“Albury City has investigated the use of body cameras but at this stage there are a number of issues that remain unresolved which prevent their take-up and adoption,” Cr Mack said.

“We will continue to monitor developments and opportunities in this space to improve our operations and safety of our staff.”

A Wodonga Council spokeswoman said body cameras were on the radar.

“We may consider equipment that helps to ensure the safety of staff when they are working,” she said.

“Our officers are often by themselves, out at night and on roads and such things like recording devices may be looked at to continue to enhance their safety.”

Wangaratta mayor Ken Clarke said body cameras had not been discussed by his council.

Indigo mayor Jenny O’Connor said she was unaware of plans for their use in her shire.

“These days when everyone has got phones and cameras in general we do get things sent to us if there is something, but I haven’t heard anything about staff using cameras,” Cr O’Connor said.

Police body cameras are to be issued to all NSW officers by the end of the year and across Victoria by 2020.