FROM October 1, 2021, the use of body-worn cameras and the recording of events by the customs police authority in the conduct of customs operations will be mandatory, according to the new rules issued by the Customs Office ( BOC).
Customs Ordinance 33-2021 on “Rules relating to the use of body worn cameras in the exercise of customs police authority and other customs operations” cites the customs operations which must be recorded as including approved supervised delivery operations; boarding formalities; conducting auctions; destruction or condemnation of the goods, including their transport to the designated facility; and operations related to electronic containerized cargo tracking (E-TRACC), in particular the conduct of investigations following a report of violation of E-TRACC rules and regulations.
The order, issued by Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero on August 27, 2021, also includes the following occasions when body-worn cameras must be worn and record events: fuel marking operations, guard duty at the exit gates of the customs for containers / freighters, if applicable; hot pursuit; inspection of recipient offices; non-intrusive examination of the goods; physical examination of goods inside and / or outside the customs area; searches of persons from foreign countries; service of a letter of authorization; search of vehicles, other vehicles, people and animals; or search ships or aircraft and persons or goods transported therein.
However, the ordinance states that there are also circumstances in which cameras or alternative recording devices may be turned off during execution operations.
These include meetings with undercover agents or confidential informants; when customs and employees are on break or engaged in non-work-related activities; inside washrooms, changing rooms or other places with similar expectations of privacy, unless the area is covered by a search warrant; in residences, unless the registration is made under a valid warrant for the arrest or search of persons or premises; strip searches or body cavities; and privileged communications between the subject of the recordings and others such as lawyers, clergy, health professionals and peer support counselors.
When activating the camera, customs officers or employees must record their name and rank, the date and time when recording starts or the time at which recording will be deactivated; as well as the purpose and location of the customs operation.
If they turn off the camera during the monitoring operation, they must first register on the camera the reason they turned off the camera before doing so.
CMO 33-2021 was issued in Supreme Court administrative case No. 21-06-08-SC known as Rules on the Use of Body-worn Cameras in Execution of warrants.
There is protection against the surreptitious use of cameras.
The order specifies that the body-worn camera must be attached to the uniform of the customs employee or official in a manner that is visible to the public.
For unscrupulous individuals who hope body-worn cameras fail during surgery, there is no escape. The order states that the recording of the event should continue using alternative recording devices.
Data from cameras or alternative recording devices must be uploaded for retention within 24 hours of being recorded by the data custodian or an authorized representative, with a third party authorized to witness the upload to prevent tampering.
The recording is deleted after 45 days unless it is relevant to an ongoing investigation or a case has been filed or is pending in court, or on the direction of the Commissioner.
Customs officers or employees who do not use the camera, without reasonable cause, or who interfere with the camera’s ability to capture audio and video recordings of the arrest, or who manipulate the recording during or after the arrest incur criminal, civil and administrative liability. (CTL)