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Maldives police experiment with body cameras in new push for integrity

Maldives on 17 December 2015
Location : Pakistan | Source : Haveeru

Police have started using body cameras in a new push to maintain integrity amid newfound accusations by the opposition that the police had been using excessive force to crackdown on dissent.

Assistant police commissioner Ismail Naween told Haveeru that the use of body cameras by police officers at the frontline is part of a pilot project. Its use would be expanded based on initial results, he added.

Naween stressed that the use of body cameras would improve gathering of intelligence and evidence necessary to maintain police integrity.

According to police, the pilot project is currently limited to capital Male only.

Use of body cameras by police have recently found momentum especially in light of racist attacks and hate crimes in developed countries such as the United States. Studies have shown that where these cameras are used there are significant increases in early guilty pleas in court, saving time and money, and reductions in complaints against police.

Police started using body cameras at a time the police had found itself the target of accusations by the opposition that it had been increasingly relying on excessive force and brutal tactics to crackdown on political dissent.

Police broke up a mass opposition protest Friday after protesters broke confinement and headed to the streets of the capital Male in defiance of the severe restrictions placed by authorities.

Immediately after protestors, led by main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), headed out of the Artificial Beach area, police had blocked off all roads leading away from the area.

After protestors clashed with police in riot gear, police asked protestors to leave the area immediately after declaring that the protest was no longer peaceful.

First police entered MDP’s camp opposite of the Artificial Beach area to cut power to the loud speakers and then pushed back protestors after taking control of the entire Artificial Beach area.

During a press conference at the Artificial Beach area Saturday morning, MDP secretary general Anas Abdul Sattar noted that police violated the original agreement with his party and used brutal tactics to break up the protest.

He maintained that police had acted in violation of local laws and regulations in constricting the right to peaceful protest.

"The order to constrict the protest is clearly unlawful. Police admitted that the right to protest was constricted on orders of a civilian minister. Police is not obligated to obey that order," Anas stressed.

Imthiyaz said police had targeted several members of the party leadership and badly beat them when breaking up the protest.

The police’s move to bolster its integrity comes in the wake of recent revelations of rampant corruption at the highest levels of both the police and the army.

Early this month, beleaguered police and military admitted a need to strengthen the functioning of both institutions to ensure national security and regain public trust. The police separately announced a reform drive to improve its image in the public.

The statement by the police and the army came after the military said two rifles seized in the biggest weapons bust in recent history were from the state armoury, while the police had been accused of high levels of corruption.

Speaking during a press conference on November 1 over the weapons bust, assistant police commissioner Abdulla Nawaz acknowledged every country would face similar challenges.

"Today we must all accept that we've witnessed things that we need to think deeply about," Nawaz said referring to the weapons bust and the explosion aboard the presidential speedboat late September.

"I believe that is the time to revamp both the police and military in a way to stop and thwart such incidents in future."

In his first address to the nation since the blast, president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom had refused to accept that police intelligence would have failed to pick up on the blast which has now been confirmed as an attempt to kill him.

He had also said ousted vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor had influenced the police through "financial favours" outside the state budget to impede the investigation.

Then Vice President Adheeb was arrested on October 24 upon return from an official visit to China and taken to the police detention centre in the island of Dhoonidhoo in Kaafu atoll.

He is accused of orchestrating a recent blast aboard the presidential speedboat now confirmed as an attempt to kill the president.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim were travelling to Male from the airport on September 28 when the explosion took place. They had returned home that morning after concluding their visit to Saudi Arabia to perform the annual hajj pilgrimage.

The president was unhurt, but the first lady suffered a spinal fracture.

The parliament had early this month passed a no-confidence motion initiated by lawmakers from the ruling coalition in a bid to impeach Adheeb.

The former vice president remains in custody after the Criminal Court for a third time extended his remand by another 15 days on Monday.

Then Vice President Adheeb was arrested on October 24 upon return from an official visit to China and taken to the police detention centre in the island of Dhoonidhoo in Kaafu atoll.

He is accused of orchestrating a recent blast aboard the presidential speedboat now confirmed as an attempt to kill the president.

President Yameen and First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim were travelling to Male from the airport on September 28 when the explosion took place. They had returned home that morning after concluding their visit to Saudi Arabia to perform the annual hajj pilgrimage.

The president was unhurt, but the first lady suffered a spinal fracture.

The parliament had early this month passed a no-confidence motion initiated by lawmakers from the ruling coalition in a bid to impeach Adheeb.

The former vice president remains in custody after the Criminal Court for a third time extended his remand by another 15 days on Monday.

President Yameen fired his police chiefs on October 23 in what appeared to be the continuation of a major security shakeup following the blast on his speedboat in September.

Then police commissioner Hussain Waheed was appointed as a state housing minister. His two deputies, Hassan Habib and Mohamed Sodiq were transferred to the gender ministry and housing ministry respectively.

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