After four years of delay and failed bids with five changes in the police leadership, the Philippine National Police (PNP), already buried in a mired reputation and the focus of public indignation, has finally got its bodycams from an electronics manufacturing firm.
Numbering 2,696 cameras, the order costs the government P288 million, roughly r106,800 per instrument! It means the cost of each cam is double the value of a brand-new 9mm Luger and more expensive than a ‘baby’ Armalite. The purchase of awfully expensive crime-fighting equipment for use in recording police actions has also raised eyebrows.
The journey to purchase bodycams started in 2017 when Sen. Jose Victor G. Ejercito and Sen. Ralph Recto sponsored the allotment of r5.4-billion budget for new police equipment.
Recto’s computation states that if the PNP buys an average of 2,600 bodycams a year of the targeted 40,000 units, it would need the country 20 years before it gets to purchase all the items.
Acquiring new bodycams to promote transparency in police operations is a commendable decision. What is not acceptable, though, is the reluctance or intransigence of law enforcement agencies towards possessing gizmos in the name of upgrading efficiency in solving crimes.
Until now, most of the videos of National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), police, or Armed Forces operations we see in social media are efforts of ordinary civilians. Even in traffic mishaps, probers rely solely on close circuit televisions and dashcams to document the events.
Bodycams may somehow result in transparent crime-related operations but as always there is this fear these gadgets, without fair and stringent regulations, can be disabled by law enforcers with criminal minds. It is no brainer that creativity at times gets in the mind of crooked cops who resort to alibis. They can always drop an excuse and claim the bodycam was inadvertently left behind, lost, not charged, or accidentally damaged.
Excuses are not exclusive to cops. Even security guards, who are required during their tours of duty to punch their daily time records on bundy clocks, ruin timers by urinating on them or putting sugar to entice ants to disable them. Many of the bodycams, without doubt, are sure to get the same abuse from people who are angry with the evidence the contraption records.
Intransigence bedevils institutions. When public vigilance towards human rights is rising and public mistrust on police is hitting the roof, resistance comes as a kind of scapegoat. To address this, the State must apply its vaunted one-strike policy, strengthen the PNP internal affairs service (IAS), and abolish the redundant National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM).