Albania Hopes Cameras Will Make Police Behave

Cameras are being installed in police uniforms in Albania in order to make the police behave better and deter them from taking bribes.

albanian police body cameras by Internal ministry

The Albanian police have started to equip their forces in the field with body cameras that they must wear on appointed shifts.  Tirana is the first city where police forces have started to use their cameras. Some 584 have been bought and are now being installed into police uniforms in the city.

The Director of Security in the Police, Altin Qato, told BIRN that the initiative was part of a drive to include the latest technology and so improve the quality of police service. “We are working to change the mentality and bring police to communities in the most efficient and ethical way possible,” Qato said. He said the cameras will serve citizens well in their relations with law enforcement. “Now we will have a better way of dealing with citizens’ complaints about how the police  approach them and, on the other hand, we will know exactly where our forces are and what are they doing,” he said.

The body cameras can monitor all angles and operate in the dark and under rain and other adverse weather conditions. Albanian police have spent around 3.7 million euros from the state budget and have taken more than six months to make the new surveillance system work. Qato said that after being tested, the system will be expanded in Tirana and then extended to other towns as well.

In the first days of implementing the new scheme, the police released videos showing citizens – who did not know that road patrol police were wearing cameras – trying bribe them. Police bribes have been a major concern for security in the past in Albania but the phenomenon is expected to decrease with the use of new technology and surveillance systems. Police body cameras are not widely used in the Balkans, or in the rest of Europe. The United States is discussing the possibilities of police forces wearing cameras, but privacy issues have emerged there.

Speaking about privacy, the Director of Security in the Police, Qato, said that police will only use the cameras during regular shifts. “They can switch them off only during short breaks within shift hours. The surveillance will be active during their duty time and not after that, so this will not create privacy concerns,” he said. Some months ago the Albanian police also presented a new way for citizens to report crimes through a smartphone app – through which people can report what they see wrong, accompanied by pictures or videos taken in the field.

Balkan Insight

4 February 2016