Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen has issued a decision on police body camera procedures concerning the recording of police duties with a video and audio device attached to the police officer’s equipment.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman finds it problematic that there is a policy, aligned with the National Police Board’s instructions, where the police officer who wore the body camera device personally assesses the necessity of the information obtained and deletes or saves the information according to their own assessment. In this procedure aligned with the National Police Board’s instructions, the police officer who wore the camera can, in principle, delete parts that could be incriminating in the assessment of the reprehensibility of their own actions.
In the Ombudsman’s view, no police officer can personally decide on the deletion or storage of data in the police personal data register, at least in cases of alleged inappropriate conduct by the police or if a complaint or a report of an offence has been filed. To ensure this, the original recording should be stored as is for a shortish period of time.
The Ombudsman also finds it problematic that the National Police Board interprets the legal nature of original body camera recordings as so-called “non-documents”, which would not be subject to the Act on the Openness of Government Activities. The decisions of the Supreme Administrative Court and the main rule of the publicity of recordings resulting from the Constitution support the interpretation that body camera recordings are official documents and that the processing of the recordings should be assessed with due legal obligations.
The question of the legal nature of a camera recording is ultimately a case for the administrative court. For this reason, original body camera recordings should also be stored for a specified minimum period of time that would allow the processing of information requests.
There may be cause to lay down more detailed provisions on the relevant legal issues.
The Ombudsman brought his understanding of the legal nature, storage and processing of body camera recordings to the attention of the National Police Board. The Parliamentary Ombudsman asks the National Police Board to state by 30 April 2023 what measures the decision may have given rise to.
The Ombudsman also sent his decision to the Ministry of Justice for assessment on whether there is a need for legislative measures in the matter.
The full text of Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen's decision no 2017/2021 has been published (in Finnish) on the Parliamentary Ombudsman's website at www.oikeusasiamies.fi.
Further information is available from Principal Legal Adviser Mikko Eteläpää, tel. +358 (0)9 432 3359.