Technology

NTSA goes hi-tech in war on roadside corruption with use of body cameras

speed

A policeman targets speeding motorists along the Nyeri-Nanyuki highway in August. PHOTO | FILE

Summary

  • Officers will be wearing devices to help monitor contact with public.

The next time the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) busts you, big brother will be watching you.

The NTSA is buying 200 body cameras for its officers to combat corruption as it joins other law enforcement agencies turning to technology in their operations.

The devices will be issued to the NTSA field staff and 100 police officers recently attached to the transport regulator.

“The reason we are doing this, we want to equip our enforcement officers with a system that somebody else can hear their conversation with the public,” said NTSA director-general Francis Meja.

The agency has been on the spot over allegations of corruption and accusations of rudeness to motorists, which, according to Mr Meja will now be tackled by use of the devices.

Motorists occasionally accuse the NTSA officers, especially those manning speed cameras of extortion of bribes and the use of body cameras could help deter the practice.

“That will bring transparency into the process and will help us handle the issues we hear from the public. Somebody remotely will be listening, will be recording the conversation so that if there’s a problem, we can find out — this officer, there’s this complaint, what was the discussion,” he said.

Mr Meja added that besides graft, it would help the State agency deal with complaints of rude officers and harassing of motorists.

“We will continue leveraging on technology to ensure that the officers have integrity in what they do.”

The use of body cameras has been employed in other jurisdictions, especially by police to check that the officers’ behaviour while on duty is above board.

Body cameras which are visibly worn by officers on the front of the shirt are seen as a key tool in increasing accountability by both the officers and citizens.

There have, however, been concerns over the privacy of those inadvertently captured in the footage, and of the officers themselves when in private conversations and going to the bathroom.

The body cameras supplied will be expected to be waterproof, have a built in flash light and with a wide field of view. They should also be capable of high definition recording, with night vision capabilities and battery life of more than 12 hours.

Human recognition

The NTSA expects the devices will be supplied 60 days after issuance of the contract with tenders set for opening on December 7.

Other law enforcement agencies such as the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) are also employing technology in their operations as they seek to deal with poachers intent on decimating elephant and rhino population.

The KWS working with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Mara Conservancy have deployed infra-red cameras that have human recognition features and can be used at night by officers to identify poachers as more than one kilometre away.

“WWF designed and installed two systems to identify poachers with infrared cameras: stationary poles lining the border of a park, and a mobile unit atop a truck used by rangers,” WWF says in a statement.

“The thermal cameras come from the company FLIR and pick up heat emitted by people and animals as they cross their viewpoint. The accompanying software determines whether that heat comes from a human.”

National surveillance

The KWS is also fitting elephants and rhinos with satellite collars to help track their movement and offer more informed protection from poachers.

On its part, the police have a surveillance system developed by Safaricom that is meant to help combat terrorism and other crimes.

The national surveillance, communication and control system links all security agencies, making it easy to share information and direct operations.

It includes high definition CCTV cameras in Mombasa and Nairobi that are connected to a national command and control room and high speed Internet connection to police stations.