Malaysia's front-line police officers are expected to be equipped with body-mounted cameras as early as September this year, as the Royal Malaysia Police (RMP) force moves towards improving its services and enhancing its integrity.
Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador said the RMP, together with the Home Ministry, is in the final stage of discussions to procure more than 2,100 units of the device.
"We have now entered the tendering phase. I believe our men will start wearing them in Q4 - some time in September or October this year," he told The Straits Times. "The equipment will be used by officers during their patrols or special operations. It will be worn together with a bulletproof vest. We will provide training beforehand."
There are 168 police districts in Malaysia, Tan Sri Abdul Hamid said, and each will receive an average of 12 units, which costs RM13,800 (S$4,480) each.
The government approved RM30 million to purchase the cameras, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said last month. He said the device would help protect police officers from false accusations made by criminals or irresponsible individuals.
Similar moves to introduce body-mounted cameras for front-line officers have been made in Singapore, the United States, Europe, Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong.
The idea had been previously rejected by lower-ranking personnel in the RMP, who felt they were being targeted. The force is battling allegations of police brutality and the public perception that it is riddled with corruption.
According to the Malaysian Bar Council's Constitution committee chairman Andrew Khoo, on average, some 18 people have died in police custody every year between 2000 and 2018.
In February, Malaysia was also rocked by a shocking report that a 16-year-old girl had been raped in a police station in Sarawak. The teenager said she was detained on Jan 8 and a male detainee from another cell used a key to open her cell door. She was then taken to the station's toilet and raped.
So far, action has been taken against at least 11 senior and low-ranking police personnel in the case.
Mr Abdul Hamid has repeatedly promised that there would be no cover-up in custodial death probes and those involved with corrupt activities will be brought to justice.
The move to introduce body-mounted cameras was first mooted by the previous government in 2019 in an attempt to curb corruption and reinforce professionalism within the force.
The Pakatan Harapan administration had also proposed forming an independent police complaints and misconduct commission but that idea was dropped by the succeeding Perikatan Nasional government.
Since taking over in 2019, the top cop has focused on improving the image of the RMP.
"I don't have much time. What I'm doing now is clearing the path (for my successor) - it has been blocked by overgrown shrubs that are full of thorns along the way," said Mr Abdul Hamid, whose term expires next month. "The use of body-mounted cameras can also act as a check-and-balance for us. If it's turned off, why? What are you hiding, what are you trying to cover up?"