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Use of Body Worn Video Cameras by Police
2016-03-02

Following is a question by the Hon Charles Peter Mok and a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, in the Legislative Council today (March 2):

Question:

In discharging their day-to-day duties and handling public events, police officers will make video records as necessary using body-worn video cameras (BWVCs) mounted on the shoulders of their uniforms for investigation and evidential purposes.  It has been reported that during the incident that occurred in Mong Kok on the night of February 8 this year (i.e. Lunar New Year’s Day) until the early hours of the following day, police officers at the scene made video records using BWVCs and initiated tracking investigations by using super-computers to analyse closed-circuit television footage and pedestrian flow data.  Some members of the public are concerned that such a practice of the Police may constitute infringement of their privacy.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of BWVCs in the accoutrements for the Police as at January 31 this year, with a breakdown by police unit;

(2) of the following details regarding the making of video records by police officers using BWVCs in discharging their day-to-day duties and handling public events respectively in each of the past three years: (i) the number of times for which video records were made, (ii) the number of video footage taken, (iii) the total length of the video footage (hours/minutes), as well as the respective numbers of such footage still being kept after (iv) 31 days and (v) six months from the date on which the video records were made (set out the information in the table below);

Year   In discharging         In handling
day-to-day duties      public events
—-   ——————-    ——————-
(i)(ii)(iii)(iv)(v)    (i)(ii)(iii)(iv)(v)
2013
2014
2015

(3) given that data protection principle (DPP) 1(1) under the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (Cap. 486) requires that personal data should not be collected unless the data are collected for a lawful purpose directly related to a function or activity of the data user who is to use the data and the collection of the data is necessary for or directly related to that purpose, whether the Police have formulated guidelines stipulating that police officers may make video records with BWVCs only under circumstances where that principle is met, and that they must notify the person(s) concerned before they start to make video records; if there are such guidelines, of those governing the commencement and cessation of making video records by police officers;

(4) given that DPP 4(1) requires that a data user shall take all practicable steps to ensure that personal data held by the data user are protected against unauthorised or accidental access, processing, erasure, loss or use, whether the Police have regularly, in respect of retention and use of video footages, (i) consulted the views of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, (ii) conducted privacy impact assessment and (iii) examine compliance with the relevant principle by police officers; whether the Police have put in place a complaint mechanism for the public to lodge complaints about matters relating to retention and use of video footages by the Police;

(5) whether the Police will make public the “Standard Operating Procedures” on the use of BWVCs by police officers and conduct review of such procedures on a regular basis;

(6) whether the Police have made use of the video footage taken with hand-held video cameras/BWVCs to make files and store such files in the criminal intelligence computer system, or have captured pictures from the video footage and verified the identity of the persons in the pictures using software with facial recognition features; if so, of the details; and

(7) of the current number of police officers who have received training on privacy matters involved in the use of BWVCs and the average number of hours of training received by them?

Reply:

President,

According to Section 10 of the Police Force Ordinance (Chapter 232), the Police have the duty to prevent and detect crimes and offences.  To carry out their duty more effectively, the Police, depending on the actual circumstances, will use Body Worn Video Cameras (BWVCs) to record incidents in order to enhance the capability and accuracy in gathering evidence.  Therefore, the Police have conducted field trials of BWVCs from March 2013 to July 2015, and are now reviewing the trial results.  Police officers will use BWVCs in confrontational scenarios, or incidents where a breach of the peace has occurred or is likely to occur.

The Government’s consolidated reply to the Hon Charles Peter Mok’s question is as follows:

At present, the Police have over 300 BWVCs, which are used by officers of the Emergency Units and the Police Tactical Unit of various Police Regions as well as the Quick Reaction Force of New Territories North Region and various Police Districts.

The Police have formulated clear and stringent internal guidelines to regulate the use of BWVCs, the handling of data and submission of recorded footage to the court as evidence, etc.  Such guidelines aim at ensuring that police officers would comply with the relevant requirements of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (Chapter 486) (the Ordinance) and court proceedings while using BWVCs.  The Police have sought the advice of the Department of Justice in respect of the guidelines and informed the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (the Office) about BWVCs.  Thereafter, the Office replied to the Legislative Council Panel on Security in April 2014, stating that based on the policies and procedures on BWVCs provided by the Police, the Office found nothing inconsistent with the requirements of the Ordinance.  The above-mentioned guidelines are an internal document of the Police and involve operational details.  Hence, it is not appropriate to disclose the guidelines.  However, members of the public can browse the background information on the Police’s introduction and use of BWVCs on the police website.

According to the guidelines, only police officers who have undergone professional training on operating BWVCs are allowed to use BWVCs.  Up to now, about 6 800 police officers have undergone such training.  All officers using BWVCs must also have adequate understanding on the Ordinance, various criminal ordinances as well as other relevant regulations.  As a matter of fact, the Police have been providing police officers with training on various requirements of the Ordinance with a view to enhancing the protection of personal privacy during execution of duties by officers.

Any recording made by BWVCs must be incident-specific.  Police officers using BWVCs have to overtly wear the cameras on their uniform, and where reasonably practicable, notify the subject prior to commencement of recording.  While recording, BWVCs will display red indicating light.  BWVCs are also equipped with outward-facing screens, so that the subject would be aware that he or she is being video-filmed and can see the recorded images at the same time.  Once the purpose of using BWVCs has been achieved, police officers should stop recording.  Persons who were recorded have the right to request for access to relevant information in accordance with the Ordinance.  Members of the public who are dissatisfied with any police officer may also lodge a complaint to the Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) of the Hong Kong Police Force.  The CAPO will handle all complaints fairly and impartially according to the established mechanism.

Police officers are required to report to their supervisors each time after using BWVCs.  The use of BWVCs would then be reviewed by the supervisors concerned.  Footage with investigative or evidential value will be treated as case exhibit, retained for investigation and court proceedings, and then deleted once such process has been completed.  Relevant footage will be converted into copies of write-once only DVDs for retention as exhibit and for investigation.  All digital storage media incorporate digital signature to prevent unauthorised tampering.  Operators and case investigators must obtain the approval of supervisors before watching the footage.  Videos or photos which may be submitted to the court as evidence will not be saved in the Criminal Intelligence Computer System.

Footage carrying no investigative or evidential value or constituting no other legitimate purpose will be deleted after 31 days from the date it was recorded.  If the footage is to be retained for more than 31 days, written authorisation from a Senior Superintendent has to be obtained and such an authorisation has to be reviewed on a monthly basis by the authorising officer.

Figures on the use of BWVCs by the Police are at Annex.  The Police do not maintain statistics on the total length of recorded footage.

Attachments: http://gia.info.gov.hk/general/201603/02/P201603020716_0716_160945.pdf

Office Of Hon. Charles Mok, Legislative Councillor (IT)