Geoff Helisma, Clarence Valley Independent
Councillors will run their eyes over a draft surveillance and enforcement policy at next week’s May 25 Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting.
“The new Surveillance Device for Compliance and Law Enforcement Activity Policy … supports the use of surveillance devices (for example body-cameras) for compliance and law enforcement activities,” the report to council states.
“…There have been a number of recent incidents where regulatory services staff have been subjected to significant verbal and physical abuse from members of the community.
“A policy that supports the use of surveillance devices like body cameras is expected to improve workplace health and safety outcomes for impacted staff.”
The draft policy’s primary purpose is “to assist with the lawful investigation and evidence gathering, in respect of any person or company responsible for any illegal activities, including waste dumping, littering, malicious damage on public land and public buildings, pollution, waste storage and disposal, unauthorised development, illegal camping in streets and reserves and illegal parking”.
The draft policy is informed by a “complex” combination of legislation, policies and rules; accordingly, “the covert surveillance device program will be operated fairly, within applicable legislative requirements and only for the purposes for which it is established or which are subsequently agreed in accordance with this procedure”, the draft policy states.
“…The surveillance devices will be operated with due regard to the privacy and civil liberties of individual members of the public, including the rights to freedom of religious and political expression and assembly.
“The public interest in the operation of the surveillance devices will be recognised by ensuring the security and integrity of operational procedures.”
In relation to public notification of the use of surveillance devices, the draft policy notes: “There is no legislative requirement for councils to notify people of the use of devices, however, it should be noted that the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act requires councils to take such steps, as are reasonable in the circumstances, to ensure that, before the information is collected or as soon as possible after, the individual is notified…
“This requirement to notify does not apply if the information is collected for law enforcement purposes, but is more relevant to the collection of images of people not involved in committing an offence.
“In the case of body-worn cameras, officers should inform all parties to the conversation/being recorded that a body-worn camera is being worn and is recording sound and images.
“If the conversation continues with no objection, implied consent can be assumed to have been given.”
Regarding photographic evidence, the draft policy states that “there is no right to privacy that protects a person’s image if photographed in a public place [or] restriction on taking photographs of people on private property if taken from public property”.
For more, go to: www.clarence.nsw.gov. au/page.asp?f=RES-TUN-85-70-41
This article appeared in the Clarence Valley Independent, 19 May 2021.