Interstate ‘piggybacking’ to cut costs: cops and cameras

By Stephen Easton

Wednesday March 30, 2016

Why reinvent the wheel? Northern Territory Police chief information officer John Labou wants to piggyback on the rollout of new equipment to a much larger force down south. The benefits are attractive, especially if the other option is missing out on the new technology altogether.

The New South Wales government announced its intention to spend $4 million over two years on body-worn cameras for police officers in 2014, after a trial in the riot squad. In September last year, police were giving the media show-and-tell sessions on the eve of the wider roll-out.

For Labou, the several years its taken for NSW police to start clipping the small digital video cameras onto their uniforms presents an opportunity that would otherwise be beyond the resources he is allocated to equip the NT force.

He has started talking to his counterparts in Sydney about how he can lean on aspects of their implementation of body-worn cameras, to do the same in NT as cheaply as possible, according to a report from a recent conference in Canberra.

The National Blood Authority’s CIO Peter O’Halloran recently told The Mandarin about his own experience of piggybacking within the sphere of Commonwealth government procurement to save the costs of a major IT upgrade.

The idea of piggybacking arrangements between state and territory governments in a range of public sector business areas has been suggested many times over the years as a way to cut the proportional costs of government for smaller jurisdictions, but it has rarely come to pass.

“They can just pretend they opened some watch houses up in the territory.”

In a perfect world, Labou imagines the much smaller NT Police could simply be treated as an extension of the massive NSW organisation for the purposes of the technology roll-out.

“They can just pretend they opened some watch houses up in the territory,” he said, suggesting NT legislators could also borrow heavily from the new laws that enable the use of the cameras down south.

Of course, Territorians might find that in their slightly different context, policies and procedures have to be modified, or that different legal guidelines around the use of the cameras are preferred by the territory government or, over time, its voting public. Privacy laws would require the NT to store its video data separately to NSW, but otherwise the NT police CIO wants to share infrastructure and piggyback on supply contracts.

Hitching a ride on the NSW roll-out would allow the NT to make its smaller police budget go further and, in this case, have new equipment they could otherwise scarcely afford.

For Labou, the idea is to “take advantage of some of their more mature legislation and operational thinking” about practical procedures for using the cameras on the beat. “They’ve already learnt the hard way so I don’t have to,” he told the conference.

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