Officers in the Brussels Capital-Ixelles police zone will start using 231 body cameras beginning in April in an effort to improve relations between law enforcement and the public.
The body cameras come at a cost of around €258,70.
Using the cameras to record interactions with the public is intended to improve the safety of all parties involved, capture the truth of a matter correctly, uncover incriminating information, and avoid the escalation of violence.
Images taken from the body cameras can also be used as evidence in court cases.
Increasing the number of body cameras worn by police in Brussels and refining guidance concerning their use was one of the pillars of a four-part plan for addressing the tensions between officers and the public back in February this year.
“A meeting between the police and the inhabitants of Brussels too often ends in escalation, on one or both sides,” said MP Juan Benjumea-Moreno, who together with MP Hicham Talhi, led the proposal.
“In Belgium, we have been discussing bodycams for a long time,” Benjumea-Moreno told The Brussels Times then. “But we see the experiences in other countries where there’s not a good framework in place and so police use them very selectively, generally only when they feel unsafe or think that their lives are in danger, rather than every time they interact with a citizen.”
In these cases, Benjumea-Moreno said, the footage ends up being incomplete because the bodycams weren’t activated until it was too late to see the full context.
“Within the Brussels-North police zone, a protocol has been introduced whereby officers have to switch on the bodycam for every contact with a citizen. We want that kind of practice everywhere because we know that the images are often incomplete because the police officer starts recording too late.”
The relationship of trust between citizens and police has been under strain in Brussels, as police claim an increase in incidents of aggression against officers, and the public alleges more incidents of police violence.