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About 9000 police iPhones nationwide can now beam live video feeds directly into national police headquarters in Wellington, as part of a new centralised command centre that was unveiled today.
But Police Commissioner Mike Bush is downplaying any 'Big Brother' implications, saying he had full confidence that police would not abuse the legal framework around lawful surveillance.
Mr Bush and Police Minister Anne Tolley formally opened the National Command and Co-ordination Centre (NCCC) with bold claims that it will increase crime prevention and help towards the police goal of reducing all crime by 15 per cent.
The centre has already been operative for the royal visit by Prince William, his wife Kate and their son Prince George in April, and the national recall of all psychoactive substances last month.
The centre has large computer monitors that feature live feeds of the 30,000 calls to police communications centres per day, and a corresponding geo-spatial map showing where police resources are deployed in every district.
Mr Bush said it enabled police to monitor blackspots for car accidents, burglaries, areas where high-priority victims live, and hotspots that show, for example, a spate of car thefts. National headquarters could then decide to employ a more visible police presence in those areas to increase prevention.
The centre also keeps track of national events such as the current Junior Rugby World Championship, the upcoming Cricket World Cup, or next year's Junior U-20 FIFA World Cup.
Mr Bush also showcased a new capability where frontline staff use their iPhones as cameras, feeding live video into the NCCC.
There are about 9000 constabulary staff, all with iPhones.
"We do that regularly ... if there is an incident evolving, a crime scene, a motor vehicle accident, an emergency, and they can actually relay that live via Facetime from their device back to here.
"[For the royal tour] we could monitor the motorcades through an iPhone and see where they are going, where they were at. We can't do anything that's outside of Search and Surveillance legislation, so it must be legal. Our staff are well trained ... so they would never abuse that legislation."
Responding to a suggestion that a possible 9000 live cameras had ominous Big Brother implications, Mr Bush said: "It's our staff, so where our staff are, there are no issues."
Mrs Tolley said there was some "nervousness" around how the NCCC would affect the autonomy of district command centres.
"That's something the commissioner has to manage, and there will be times on a national level when the commissioner will have to step in."
She said having real time information would lead to more co-ordinated responses.
"Even if it's just holding up an iPhone and having a look at the crowd , you're able to see the crowd yourself, rather than someone describing it."
The NCCC was set up in 12 weeks at a cost of $400,000.
- Derek Cheng of APNZ