Police camera turned off during killing of Navotas teen

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Police camera turned off during killing of Navotas teen
A man pays his last respects to 17-year old Jerhode Jemboy Baltazar in his wake in Navotas City on August 11, 2023.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — The camera worn by a cop involved in the shooting of Jerhode “Jemboy” Baltazar was turned off, the chief of Navotas City police said Monday. 

Body-worn cameras help ensure transparency and accountability in police operations, especially when the conduct of raids and arrests is under scrutiny. 

“The one wearing a body cam did not turn it on during the operation. That’s why I’m also suing him. I’m having him investigated,” PCol. Allan Umipig, chief of Navotas City police, told Radyo5 in Filipino. 

Navotas cops killed 17-year-old Baltazar while they were pursuing a suspect in a shooting incident on August 2 in what the Philippine National Police described as a case of "mistaken identity." 

According to Umipig, instances of body-worn cameras being turned off during police operations had happened before, with cops saying the devices had run out of batteries. 

The police officer said they frequently told cops that body-worn cameras should be fully-charged and turned on during operations.

In a separate interview over radio DWPM, Umipig said that the cop with a body-worn camera initially said the device’s battery had run out. 

Tool of transparency, accountability

The Philippine police started using body-worn cameras in February 2021 for the service of search and arrest warrants and during anti-drug operations. Nearly 2,700 cameras, worth P288 million, were distributed to 171 police units in Metro Manila, including 38 police stations. 

In July 2021, the Supreme Court issued the Rules on the Use of Body-Worn Cameras, which required law enforcement agents implementing arrest and search warrants to use at least two recording devices for their operations—one body-worn camera and an alternative recording device.

Six Navotas cops are facing a complaint for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide, while 27 police were relieved from their posts. 

The National Union of Peoples' Lawyers-National Capital Region said the killing of Baltazar should be prosecuted as an act of murder, and not as a mere accident. 

The killing of Baltazar also renewed calls for the review of the police's operational procedures. The PNP Police Operational Procedure states that the use of a lethal approach is a last resort. — with report from Kristine Joy Patag and The STAR/Emmanuel Tupas

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