City of Albany Staff have said plans to introduce body-worn cameras for the use of rangers are based on well-informed research and considerations including the mental and physical wellbeing of staff. There was an hour-long discussion last week at the City’s community and corporate services committee meeting prompted by an agenda item calling on councillors to note the proposed introduction of the cameras for use by City rangers. As part of the discussion, corporate and commercial services executive director Matthew Gilfellon and public health and safety manager Scott Reitsema provided further information to councillors about the research informing the proposed introduction. Mr Gilfellon told the meeting he wanted to bring the surrounding commentary “back to the basic elements as to what we are trying to achieve, and that’s protection”. He said that meant protection of staff who are placed in situations where they might be treated aggressively and protection for the City from possible litigation. “Working here puts (rangers) at risk of both physical harm, but also mental harm — this is an area we probably haven’t discussed a lot,” he said. “We send our employees out to do many tasks that we probably don’t want to do ourselves. “We want them to turn up to illegal campers and tell them to move on, we want them to turn up to someone’s house and take away their aggressive dog and we expect them to go out to remote beaches to people they shouldn’t be driving around in their 4WD.” He said the effect of body-worn cameras on the mental health of those wearing them was not covered by a lot of the research he had looked at, but a trial of cameras in Bayswater mentioned officers had “an enhanced feeling of safety while wearing them”. “It’s this feeling of safety we’re after,” he said. “If our employees feel safer while wearing them it contributes to better mental health and if that happens, for me, the cameras are a success.” He said the City had a responsibility to provide “proper” personal protective equipment to employees it exposed to risks. “Quite a lot of local governments have adopted body-worn cameras and it seems to me the way that its going it will be as common as providing high-vis to employees,” he said. When asked by Cr Malcolm Traill if there was any indication rangers had left the job due to their mental health, Mr Reitsema told the meeting “it was something I’ve had feedback on from”. “There is definitely mental health stresses to the job,” he said. “When you rock up to a job and you’re not sure how its going to be received or if there are allegations that are going to be made after you’ve left the job. “As a health officer that has worked here for 18 years I’ve felt the same. “I’ve been to jobs where you walk in and out thinking everything is rosy, then you come back and are dragged into the bosses office with allegations made against you.” Responding to questions from Cr Chris Thomson, City chief executive Andrew Sharpe said the administration brings certain operational matters to the council so they can remain informed because of a “strong, trusted relationship”. “It’s a good way to actually inform council, plus it also gets it on the public agenda where it’s more transparent in nature,” he said. “We, as an organisation, have probably had a higher level of transparency here than what I have been used to in some of the larger metropolitan councils.” Cr Stephen Grimmer asked if a communication strategy to inform the community about the introduction of the cameras has been developed. Mr Gilfellon said in response he had expected it to be “quite contentious, but it hasn’t necessarily show itself to be” and Mr Sharpe said a strategy would be developed before the implementation of the cameras. An alternate motion that would have further delayed the introduction of cameras so that council could debate the matter further based on extra information was defeated later in the meeting. The item is expected to be included on the agenda for council’s ordinary meeting on Wednesday, April 26.