An agenda item concerning body-worn cameras for City rangers turned into an hour-long discussion about transparency and the roles of the City’s administration and council on Tuesday. The officer’s report prepared for the community and corporate services committee recommended it note the introduction of body-worn cameras for use and evaluation by City “authorised persons”. The item was previously discussed at the March CCS committee meeting before being deferred to this month. Cr Chris Thomson, who moved the motion at March’s meeting to defer the item, presented an alternative motion this week that would have further delayed the introduction of the cameras. The alternate motion asked for a draft council policy to be presented by the end of the year along with a report fully addressing the pros and cons. Speaking to his motion, Cr Thomson said he was not passionate about body-worn cameras but was “very passionate about transparency”. He said the potential impact on civil liberties, unintended consequences and whether the cameras were suitable for the community justified delaying their introduction. “We need full public disclosure, full public debate and full public discussion about this one,” he said. “It’s a priority area, but there is no need to rush. It’s been five years in the making — 2018 we’re told —a further few months will not matter in terms of having great public disclosure and debate on this matter.” Cr Thomas Brough seconded the motion and said the Local Government Act stipulates that one of the council’s primary roles is to determine local government policies. He said he wanted to see good policy, which would require a good debate informed by a “better report”. “We’ve heard from the administration that this is about protection and I’ve seen the evidence firsthand, but council hasn’t seen the evidence firsthand,” he said. “The report that we got was below the standard that I would expect for council on deciding this matter.” The alternate motion was ultimately defeated 10-3, with Cr Matt Benson-Lidholm the only other councillor to join Cr Thomson and Cr Brough to vote in its favour. Cr John Shanhun said noting an item that was presented to the council was about “checks and balances on both sides”. “When I started on council eight years ago, we did a lot of training,” he said. “We were clearly told there was quicksand in between and we can’t overstep the mark, we can’t tell administration how to do their job and they can’t tell us to do ours.” Cr Malcolm Traill said he would vote against the alternate motion because he was in favour of “good governance”, which he believed the officer’s report and recommendation had provided. “I don’t want to be in a position where elected members readily overrule the administration against legal advice. . . for me this sets us up for failure and mistrust,” he said. Cr Amanda Cruse said being a ranger was a difficult, increasingly dangerous job and the introduction of cameras was “essentially an occupational, health and safety issue, therefore very much an operational manner”. “To set an expectation about reporting and proving things with all the reasoning behind it before an operational decision is made is unnecessarily onerous and probably quite negative in terms of staff morale,” she said. Cr Robert Sutton pointed to an example in which a ranger in a different municipality had received death threats when carrying out a warrant to seize a dog that had “ripped to shreds” a neighbouring pet. “This is how aggressive people can get over a dog, we need to get cameras on these people when they need them as quickly as possible,” he said. Speaking for the officer’s recommendation before it was supported 10-3, Cr Greg Stocks said the council only played a role in employing one person — the chief executive. “There is a multitude of human resources policies that go with the employment of every other person, approximately 280 full-time employees, lies with the administration,” he said. “There are multiple very good policies that we never see the light of. “You either decide this is a function of administration or a function of council.” The full council is expected to consider the committee’s recommendation at its ordinary council meeting on Wednesday, April 26.