Cops kitted out with body cams

Police in the Ballarat region will be among the first in the state to wear body cameras from mid-next year.

A spokeswoman for Victoria Police told The Courier using video cameras on police vests would be a valuable tool when responding to family violence assaults.

One police station within the Ballarat division, which stretches from Bacchus Marsh to Landsborough, will be chosen for the trial.

Officers in NSW and Queensland have already been equipped with body cams, with senior police saying they hold their members, and the people they deal with, to account.

In 2016, the Royal Commission into Family Violence had recommended Victoria Police should trial the use of body cams to help collect statements and other evidence.

Police say filming victims and offenders could help improve the judicial process for victims by allowing them to make statements when police first arrive on the scene. 

This would help officers scrutinise evidence and avoid the need for people to recount events later on.

Ballarat-based WRISC Family Violence Support executive officer Libby Jewson said she would be happy to support any initiative to help keep women and children safe.

"A multi-sector approach in responding to family violence is a real priority for this region," she said.

"We work closely with Victoria Police and would be happy to support it."

The move comes after breaches of family violence orders rocketed in Ballarat over the past year.

The latest Crime Statistic Agency numbers revealed offenders violated intervention orders up to 825 times in the 12 months to March across the city, up 86 cases on the year before.

Only 291 breaches were reported back in 2012.

The number of recorded breaches also counted repeat offenders.

Speaking in August, Inspector Trevor Cornwill said Ballarat police officers responded to family violence cases every day.

“Locally, if you look at a typical day of a police officer, they will see more disturbing things in a day than most people will see in a number of years,” he said.

A decision will be made on whether to distribute body cams to officers across the state after next year’s trial, which will also include a police station in the northeastern suburbs of Melbourne.

The Victorian government introduced new laws into parliament last month to ensure officers could legally use body cams.

As the law stands, the use of body cam footage could constitute an offence if police were to inadvertently record a private conversation.

  • For help, call the Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800 737 732