In a bid to curb the rising cases of corruption and extortion against the men in white at the Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, the airport principal commissioner of customs on Monday ordered the use of body-worn cameras (BWC) by the baggage clearance officers at the Customs Red Channel for declaration of dutiable goods bought the passengers from abroad.
“Border customs around the world have started using digital technologies for audio and video recording for law enforcement functions and for transparency and accountability. It has been decided to prescribe BWCs placed on jackets to be worn by the baggage clearance officers at the Red channel,” confirmed a senior airport customs official.
Pilot project for enhanced transparency
As a pilot project, two customs officers posted at the red channel in each passenger clearance group would wear the BWC to accurately record customs law enforcement actions and interaction of the officer with the passengers, to record passengers' response and actions on being informed to pay customs duty thereby enhancing transparency and accountability in customs functions.
Senior customs officials are confident that the use of BWCs would result in a reduction of complaints against its frontline officers.
SOP for Video Management
The Standard operating procedure (SOP) establishes guidelines for management, storage, release and retrieval of BWC video while respecting individual privacy issues.
According to the guidelines, the on duty customs Deputy Commissioner (DC) and Assistant Commissioner (AC) will select officers with good knowledge of baggage rules and customs to be nominated for the pilot project.
“The nominated officers would wear the jacket and position the BWC in such a manner that the supervisor monitoring the footage sees the visuals from the officer's perspective,” explained another customs officer.
The new rules stipulate jacket along with the BWC would be kept under the charge of duty DC/AC and a register shall be maintained in which the officers shall sign and record the time and date of wearing the BWC and jacket and also the time and date of removing the BWC and jacket in presence of DC/AC who shall counter sign the entries made.
Ensuring passenger consent
The customs officers wearing BWC are required to intimate the passenger about the presence of BWC and taking the consent of the passenger is mandatory.
At the end of the shift the customs officers wearing BWC will transfer all the recorded data into the system that shall be stored in encrypted format with password and OTP and intimation to airport commissioner with date and time of recording.
The procedure mandates that the encrypted recordings be transferred every 24 hours to a secure server that shall be placed in the vigilance section and another backup will be stored in HDD which will be in the custody of the vigilance section. “In order to safeguard Privacy issues, Additional Commissioner (Airport) and one nominated senior officer shall only review the recordings,” states the orders.