Seven months after unveiling, Lagos security officials yet to use body-worn cameras

Seven months after unveiling, Lagos security officials yet to use body-worn cameras

As part of the efforts of the Lagos State Government to improve the professionalism and accountability of law enforcement officers, the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on March 31, unveiled the use of body-worn cameras by officers.

The unveiling of the cameras was the first of its kind in the state and was aimed at putting the state in a better position to respond to security challenges and also curb the high-handedness of security officers, according to the governor.

“The security challenges in different parts of the country are worrisome, but with proactive action, the use of modern technological tools, and a mix of well-trained and intelligent officers, we will successfully combat many of these challenges,” Mr Sanwo-Olu said.

“With body-worn cameras, our law enforcement officers are better equipped to protect lives and properties, thereby, making Lagos safer for us all.”

During the unveiling, the governor said the body-worn cameras would be used by state-funded security personnel such as the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Vehicle Inspection Service (VIS), Lagos Neighborhood Safety Corps (LNSC), and the Lagos Environmental Sanitation Corps (LAGESC).

Under the scheme, the state planned to train 7,000 officers on how to use the cameras in 26 batches, through the Lagos State Law Enforcement Training Institute (LETI).

LETI was established in 2013 through an Executive Order to set standards for recruitment of law enforcement agents, training, and development of the officers.

Unveiled, unexecuted

Although the unveiling of the digital gadgets garnered much applause from citizens, security experts, and human rights groups, it has remained largely unused in the state.

This reporter went around Lagos in October to check the level of deployment of the digital tools to law enforcement officials and utilisation, but no single officer was seen wearing the body cameras. All the law enforcement officials that were spoken to confirmed that they had not been given the body cameras.

‘No cameras given’ – Officers

Despite the ‘firm resolution’ of the Sanwo-Olu led administration to improve security apparatus in the state, no law enforcement official has been seen kitted with the digital camera unveiled in March.

From Mile 2 to Ojota, Oshodi, Berger, Lekki, Agege, and Surulere, PREMIUM TIMES observed law enforcement officials; none was seen with the body cameras.

A LASTMA official, who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES at the Ojota area, said he was aware that a batch of training has been conducted for selected officers in the state, but nothing has been done afterward.

“They said they will still train more of us, so, many are waiting to be shortlisted for the training. Without the training, you cannot use the camera and even many of those who have been trained are yet to be given cameras,” he said.

The official, who did now want to be named because he was not authorised to speak to this reporter, said the training is hierarchical as the digital gadget cannot be given to all officials.

An LNSC official, who identified himself as Adeleke, said they are yet to be given cameras though they had been informed of their introduction.

“Those of us that patrol and work on the road in different local governments have not been given any camera. I am not sure you will find any officer on this Lagos road wearing camera,” he said.

Another LASTMA officer said he got to know about the introduction of the body camera when it was launched by the state governor, but there has been “silence” by the authority on how officers can access them.

Efforts to speak to the General Manager of LASTMA, Bolaji Oreagba, over the body-worn cameras were unsuccessful. He did not respond to calls and text messages. He was also not in the office when this reporter visited.

Olumide Filade, the spokesperson of LASTMA, also did not reply to calls and text messages as of the time of filing this report.

As of October 30, most law enforcement officers in different parts of Lagos were yet to begin the use of body cameras.

There have been several reports of high-handedness of law enforcement officers in Lagos, which includes the extortion of motorists by LASTMA officers and other unprofessional conduct.

With the introduction of body-worn cameras by offices, the Lagos State government hopes to improve security and cut down unprofessional conduct by officers. The use of the cameras will also offer protection to officers by providing real-time evidence.

Introduction of body cameras, a positive step – Experts

Experts say the use of body cameras will give the state a higher advantage in crime management and also boost its smart city prospects.

Yusuf Anas, a security analyst and retired air commodore, said the initiative is a positive step on the part of the state government and deserves commendation. Mr Anas is the Executive Secretary of the Centre for Crisis Communication.

“It is in line with global best practices, it will assist the government and the law enforcement officers to track what suspects are up to. The cameras can also be used as exhibits in court because the camera will show precisely the events that happened,” he said.

Mr Anas said records from the cameras can be put in the database of law enforcement agencies, which could help them match a suspect’s crime in one scene to another crime in another scene.

“It will also serve as a check on security agencies because if they try to maltreat suspects or frame suspects, it will show clearly that they are the ones that are at fault or trying to induce a crime on an innocent citizen.

“Lagos is a centre of excellence, if they are the first to introduce this, it will also encourage other states to introduce it to curb crime and check the excesses of the security agencies,” Mr Anas said.

Another security expert, Davidson Akhimen, said the use of body-worn cameras by law enforcement agents in Lagos State will improve the confidence of the public in the agencies.

“In cases of arrests and prosecution, you need evidence and most times, cases are thrown out just because of lack of evidence. But with body cameras, you will find visual evidence, grade one evidence like we call it and allow for easy prosecution.

“Also, it protects the security agents. In the 21st century, you find that human rights abuse is very rampant and you find that law enforcement agents are mostly victims of either wrongly or rightly being accused of human rights violation in the course of the job. But with body cameras, what you will find is that both parties are protected as a result of concrete evidence available,” he said.

Cameras used by ‘elite squad’

PREMIUM TIMES interviewed Falade Oyekan, the former Director-General of LETI, on the deployment of the body cameras to officers in the state.

Mr Oyekan, who is now the General Manager of the Lagos State Neighborhood Safety Agency (LNSA), said the cameras are already being used by an ‘elite squad.’

He said the officers are attached to special events attended by the governor and other principal officers in the state, as well as occasions with dignitaries in attendance. He said they use the cameras for security reasons.

Mr Oyekan said body cameras have been purchased by the government, but cannot be deployed to the officers at once as they have to follow a ‘systematic pattern.’

“If you deploy at once, you can’t get it right. If we deploy stage by stage, once there is something that we found is not right, we can improve when deploying to others. If done en masse, we can’t get it right.

“Law enforcement officers have lost their integrity and it is for us to help them bring that back. With the use of body-worn cameras, we can check the officers as well as the motorists and citizens,” he said.

The LNSA boss added that to actualise the body-worn cameras initiative, law enforcement officers need to undergo training on the proper use of the cameras, which will also take some time.

“We went to six foreign countries to get different samples of body-worn cameras for officers to get the perfect one.”

Mr Oyekan said the government is also trying to set up a control room where all the cameras in circulation will be connected and would enhance live tracking of activities of law enforcement officers in different parts of the state.

“The cameras are available but it is for us to follow the due process. First, they need to be trained thoroughly and not all the officers will wear the cameras,” he said.

Also, the Chief Press Secretary to Mr Sanwo-Olu, Gboyega Akosile, said plans are ongoing for the circulation of the cameras.

“The process is ongoing, the governor launched it and that is to tell you that it was well-thought and the process was on. We have the cameras but they needed to train the personnel that will be wearing the cameras.

“It is not only about the camera, the governor keeps talking about smart Lagos where there will be a well-integrated security network, things will be monitored from the command and control centre,” he said.

Mr Akosile said the body-worn cameras will be built on the backbone of the fibre optic cables that are being laid across the state.

“Have they started wearing body cameras? Yes, they have started wearing it. Now, are they everywhere? The answer is no, they are not everywhere just yet?

“You can be rest assured that they will spread. For the governor to have thought about it in the first place simply means we have the plans to secure people in a digital way using technology,” the governor’s spokesperson said.

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