The biggest thing that could help the image of the Philippine National Police (PNP) is the use of body cameras. If the police’s actions are in doubt, the use of body cams will address the need for transparency.
Transparency is what Filipinos ask for from PNP chief, Director General “Bato” Dela Rosa. It seems like for the longest time, many Filipinos have been amused by dela Rosa. You can see it on TV if you pay attention: reporters caught smiling as Dela Rosa answers questions – complete with gestures – during an interview.
You might suppose the amusement all started when the PNP chief was seen crying on national TV during a Senate hearing in 2016. Some people even amused themselves by posting on Facebook, inventing some things like “How to take drama lessons from PNP Chief Bato?” Some people cannot seem to decide if they want to paint him as a comedian or as a dramatic actor.
In one interview last month, Dela Rosa expressed exasperation with the media when he was asked why some policemen turned off the Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) during an anti-narcotics operation. He seemed about to explode when he answered that the CCTV was turned off after the operation was all over. It seemed like he was about to scream at the reporters, “Why are you doing this to me?”
The answer to that is self-evident. People want transparency. Otherwise, now that Operation Tokhang has been relaunched, how can you stop us from thinking about rub-outs?
Now comes the scenario of policemen using body cameras to record their on-duty activities. “Bato” held a press conference in which he stated that policy guidelines will be released once PNP personnel have been issued with body cams.
Of course, anyone would be curious about the image quality of these body cams. Will that be 13 megapixel or above, like what you would find an an average selfie camera?
Some local government units (LGUs), such as Pasig City, have already provided their police force with body cams. This writer’s source from the PNP-Public Information Office (PIO) said that “it depends on the LGU, whether it is an SJCAM, GoPro, or some other brand.”
For his part, Dela Rosa emphasized that once the body cams have been made available, no anti-drug operations will be conducted without their use. He added that the use of body cams by the police is for transparency purposes, so that all actions on the ground are monitored. That is such a relief. For once, there is nothing funny or overly dramatic about the PNP chief’s pronouncements.
The prevailing question is how effective will these body cams be? Our source from the PNP-PIO opined that “it will be very effective during drug-busts and SWAT operations.”
The source also cited one instance in the United States where a policeman was caught planting drugs in the wallet of an apprehended suspect. He explained, “the US cop thought that he had turned off the body cam. My understanding is that when they are off duty, the police surrender their cams for archive or for scrutiny of their office.”
Back here in the Philippines, only a few months are left before Dela Rosa’s retirement as PNP Chief. We do not want to be left with only bad memories of the PNP during his tenure. After all has been said and done, the use of body cams is a step in the right direction.