As part of the Victorian Game Management Authority's (GMA) plan to strengthen its operational and surveillance capacity, all authorised GMA Game officers are now equipped with new high-tech body-worn cameras (BWCs). The GMA’s Authorised Officers are now using the BWCs to improve evidence gathering in situations such as approaching and engaging alleged offenders caught illegally spotlighting deer, exceeding bag limits on game ducks and shooting protected species.
The GMA undertook extensive research into BWCs and found that the Axon Body 2, which is a wearable camera system incorporating an audio and video recording device, was the most appropriate model for the GMA’s purposes.
The camera provides high quality audio and video recording capabilities. Mobile phones can be paired with the BWC, and a mobile phone app, called Axon View, is used to monitor and save video footage.
Through Axon View Authorised Officers can:
The recorded footage is stored on a cloud-based digital evidence management system. This system allows for a ‘forensic fingerprint’ of each evidence file and tamper proof evidence audit records. The evidence management system also allows the sharing of footage within the GMA and with other trusted agencies, including Victoria Police, via a secure link. Photos taken by members of the community who report alleged illegal hunting offences can be saved to evidence management system and stored within the database for inclusion on case files and information reports.
The GMA’s Authorised Officers can also capture photos, video and audio with their mobile phones, and using the mobile app, securely upload these files to the evidence management system. In equipping GMA Authorised Officers with BWCs, the GMA was mindful of the risks associated with the privacy of community members, particularly in the context of inadvertently capturing footage or recordings of people not involved in a GMA enquiry i.e. if our Officers walk past a group of people conversing while approaching an offender.
At all times, the GMA maintained a conscious effort to ensure the use of the new BWCs meant that Authorised Officers could still comply with the Surveillance Devices Act 1999
Recent amendments to the Act ensure that police, ambulance officers and other prescribed persons do not commit this offence inadvertently, while carrying out their duties. The GMA obtained legal advice from the Victorian Government Solicitors Office on how best to ensure that GMA Authorised Officers could also be protected from any breach of the Act. This risk was removed by making a recommendation under s 37A of the Act to the Governor in Council (GIC) to make regulation with respect to prescribing a GMA Authorised Officer as a prescribed person for the purpose of the of the Act. The BWCs are part of the Victorian Government's $6 million boost over four years to increase GMA staff, provide new equipment, increase research capacity, conduct education campaigns and develop a new online Game Licensing System.