• The City Council provides its agents with recording devices for the most complex actions, which can end up in court in an investigation for malpractice

The Barcelona Urban Guard (GUB) will deliver this wednesday 43 single-person cameras to many other agents. Starting in mid-June, and before the always turbulent summer months, it will deliver other 107 video recording devices. The intention is that in the not too distant future, all the complex actions of municipal agents will be recorded. “The measure responds to a request from the agents themselves and also to the Barcelona City Council’s commitment to transparency”, defended the head of security for the consistory, Albert Batlle.

In a context in which technology allows citizens to record videos with their mobile phones of any controversial police action, which are then broadcast through social networks -also fragmented or decontextualized The Guàrdia Urbana has decided to equip its agents with video devices to have their own images of their most difficult interventions.

As has happened with VAR in football, which has allowed referees to review their actions with images that all spectators already had, the municipal police will provide 150 cameras to their agents, to guarantee the rights of officials and also that of citizens, underlines Batlle. Because its content will serve as evidence in a trial against citizens and to counter alleged false accusations against the police, but also to document a case of malpractice.

Also as it happens with the VAR, it will be possible to review how the play began. The registration system of these devices is always recording, from the moment the agent puts it on, but it only stores the images from the moment the agent presses the button. In this way, when you press ‘play’ the camera can save the last 30 seconds. In other words, the sequence includes half a minute before the moment in which it was believed necessary to start capturing reality thanks to a ‘buffering’ system that the City Council has opted for after a pilot test started in 2019.

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The episode in which a corporal from Urbana opened fire on a homeless man in Passeig Sant Joan –who was seriously injured– in November 2020 it would be a “paradigm situation” in which it would be necessary to have images, explained the head of the municipal police, the mayor Pedro Velazquez.

exceptional cases

The cameras, devices that are the size of a packet of tobacco and that are placed on the front of the uniform, will only be activated in exceptional cases, both Batlle and Velázquez have stressed. “Its use will not be widespread”, explained the mayor. “And whenever it is possible to notify, the agent must transmit to the citizen that he is going to activate the device”, emphasizes the mayor. It will be in situations that entail risk for the police or for people, such as a case of sexist violence, a fight in the street, altercations or large bottles. But not using it in those situations will be something that the police officer will have to justify because he is obliged to record, Velázquez has remarked.

The first 43 cameras will be used by officers stationed in the district of old city –the most conflictive in the city–, the Trànsit unit and the UREP agents –formerly known as ‘riot police’–. Starting in June, police officers from the rest of the city’s districts will receive them.

Mayor Velázquez and the manager of Seguretat, Maite Married, have stressed that the use of these camcorders will comply with current regulations. The police officer can only turn the camera on or off but does not have access to the images, which are also encrypted. The goal is to ensure that files are not tampered with or altered. Because they can end up being part of a judicial investigation or an investigation of malpractice by the internal affairs of Urbana. In compliance with current legislation, images that are not of interest will be deleted after three months.

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The agents will be able to record on public roads and also inside homes as long as there is permission from the owner of the house or they are witnessing a crime ‘red-handed’, as occurs with any action.

This project has cost the coffers of Barcelona €386,000. The chosen camera is from the company VAMA.


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