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Body cameras on the cards for traffic cops

Industry news

Durban – Traffic officers being fitted with body cameras to “monitor officer and road user behaviours” is on the cards as the Road Traffic Management Corporation considers ways to fight corruption in the traffic law enforcement sector.

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In proposed resolutions drawn up after the National Traffic Indaba in Durban last week, the RTMC said it would also be reviewing licensing and renewal processes to curb “bribery and corruption”.

Last week minister of transport Dipuo Peters called for a clampdown on the “culture of bribery” in the traffic fraternity.

The Road Traffic Management Corporation is also considering revisiting the jurisdiction of traffic officers, going forward.

In dialogues at the Indaba, the traffic law enforcement fraternity had put forward to the RTMC that officers be fitted with body cameras to “limit human interference and monitor officer and road user behaviour to eliminate bribery and corruption.”

Howard Dembovsky of Justice Project South Africa said introducing body cameras was long overdue.

“There is no better evidence than video evidence. If the offender offers a bribe, the video makes for wonderful evidence, especially if the driver is under the influence.”

Regarding the possible overhauling of the licensing process, Dembovsky said: “Again, long overdue. While I don’t have the statistics to prove it, logically, many crashes occur because those not qualified to drive have a higher possibility of crashing.”

He added that a clampdown on counterfeit licenses was a top priority in curbing crashes, and that unqualified drivers were more of a problem than unroadworthy vehicles.

“At a roadblock, an unroadworthy vehicle can be seen, but it is very hard to identify a licence that was issued by a corrupt official from a licensing department.”

Drunk driving is also a focus for the RTMC, with officers having called for offenders to spend “several days in custody” before applying for bail to act as a greater deterrent.

But South Africans Against Drink Driving director Caro Smit said that would be an “exceptionally bad idea.”

Smit said this could lead to people wrongly going to jail, and that would lead to many cases of counter-suing.

“If they use evidential breathalyser tests, which hold up in court, and the blood-alcohol level is high or if the person kills or injures someone then it’s fine, but overall it’s not a good idea.”

Dembovsky expressed cautious optimism about the proposed changes.

“At the next Indaba, let’s see how many resolutions they have done. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Show us progress.”

At the closing of the Indaba on Friday KwaZulu-Natal MEC for transport Mxolisi Kaunda said use of body cameras was being considered.

“Body-worn video cameras for law enforcement officers to help in fighting corruption and improve the handling of evidence for successful prosecution,” he was quoted as saying.

The RTMC and the Department of Transport said during the Indaba that resolutions from the meeting would help them reach their goal of halving the number of road fatalities by 2020.

The Mercury

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