Bodycams are now mandatory for the police

Police superintendent Maria Potratz switches on her new body cam when the new system is presented.
From now on, police officers in North Rhine-Westphalia are obliged to wear bodycams. © picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild

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Since this week, so-called bodycams have been compulsory for the NRW police force. According to information from the German Press Agency, a corresponding decree was sent to all police authorities. The obligation to wear is a consequence of the deadly police shots at a 16-year-old refugee in Dortmund. For legal reasons, however, there is no obligation to switch on.

So far, officers have not been forced to wear a camera on their uniform at all. In the newly drafted “obligation to carry/carry” of “management and operational resources in the field service”, the bodycam is now mentioned next to protective vest, pistol or handcuffs. Plainclothes police officers do not have to carry the camera.

The internal letter accompanying the new bodycam instruction emphasizes that the camera on the uniform should be activated at an “early stage of danger”: “The bodycam must therefore be switched on if a de-escalating effect on the police opposite is assumed at the relevant time for the decision can be.”

Interior Minister Herbert Reul (CDU) had announced the obligation to wear them several weeks ago, together with other measures that were to be implemented after the shots in Dortmund. This now also includes changes in the “regulations for security guards”, so to speak, the primer for patrol officers.

Dealing with people with mental health issues

In the new version – valid from May 1st – there are new paragraphs on how to deal with people who speak little or no German or who show mental problems. In the case of Dortmund, there had been problems communicating with the young refugee from Senegal. The operation initially ran as a threatened suicide.

The new service regulation (“PDV 350”) now states, among other things: “When dealing with foreign-language people, the possibilities of translation by appropriately knowledgeable employees, interpreters or third parties as well as by means of technology must also be included.”

With reference to “people in exceptional psychological situations” it says: Such situations are unpredictable and particularly dangerous. For example, “supposedly calm and static situations could suddenly turn into aggressive behavior and dynamic situations”. Therefore, as the first police officer on site, it is best to keep the situation “static”, de-escalate and, if necessary, call a special task force (SEK) for help.

The police union (GdP) had already welcomed the measures announced by Reul. With reference to the obligation to wear bodycams, GdP-NRW boss Michael Mertens said that the decision was “understandable”. Now, however, the deployment training must be adapted: “Because only those who are trained for it will also switch on the body cam in stressful situations,” says Mertens.


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