|Volume 1 - Resource Management
Chapter 16 - Enforcement
Policy 16.18 - Covert Surveillance Operations, Equipment and Systems
Effective Date: 16-March-06
This policy governs covert surveillance and the use of covert surveillance equipment and systems by Ministry of Forests and Range staff who perform a compliance and enforcement function.
This policy does not apply to the use of electronic equipment for recording interviews or the taking of statements.
The purpose of this policy is provide direction on covert surveillance activities and the use of covert surveillance equipment that will ensure Ministry compliance with the spirit, intent and legal obligations of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPP).
This policy addresses the
For the purposes of this policy:
"Acts" means the Forest Act, the Range Act, the Forest Practices Code of BC Act, the Wildfire Act, the Forest and Range Practices Act and their Regulations.
"C&E" means Compliance and Enforcement.
"CEB" means Compliance and Enforcement Branch.
"covert surveillance" means hidden or secret close observation.
"Covert Surveillance Equipment and System" means the secretive use of surveillance systems and does not apply where a person has been advised they will be recorded or have given their consent.
"compliance and enforcement leader" means the District Compliance Leader, the Regional Compliance and Enforcement Manager or the Fire Centre Compliance and Enforcement leader.
"FOIPP" means the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
"MOFR" means the Ministry of Forests and Range.
"OIPC" means the Office of Information and Privacy Commissioner.
"RCEM" means Regional Compliance and Enforcement Manager.
"SIU" means a member of a regional Special Investigations Unit.
"Surveillance System" means any manned or unmanned mechanical or electronic system or device that enables continuous or periodic video recording, observing or monitoring of areas and spaces and individuals who may enter those areas or spaces.
Any record of the image of an identifiable individual is a record of personal information. Therefore the FOIPP Act and the Public Surveillance System Guidelines (OIPC Reference Document 00-01) apply.
The OIPC strongly encourages all public bodies that use surveillance systems to comply with their guidelines (Public Surveillance System Privacy Guidelines). Those guidelines call for the creation and implementation of a comprehensive written policy to govern use of surveillance equipment and handling of any records created by their use.
It is MOFR policy that:
Surveillance will only occur where the level of intrusiveness does not outweigh any harm that may be done to any individual's or the public's right to privacy.
MOFR SIU program staff, Protection Program fire cause investigators, CEB staff, and, where approved by a compliance and enforcement leader, district or fire centre staff may use covert surveillance systems subject to all of the following criteria being met:
Cost savings are not adequate as the sole rationale for covert surveillance.
The Provincial C&E Technical Specialist, a member of the SIU, and or a compliance and enforcement leader are responsible for approving use of the systems, maintaining the systems and all other applications of this policy.
Those staff responsible for approving use of a surveillance system will consider this policy, the referenced legislation, the guidelines and procedures and the Covert Surveillance Systems Conditions of Use and Test in all circumstances prior to approving use of any surveillance system.
All personnel using a covert surveillance system will be trained on the use of the equipment, this policy, the FOIPP and the OIPC guidelines.
All personnel using a covert surveillance system will complete the FS 1240 Form "Request to Use Special Equipment." The completed FS 1240 will be placed on the appropriate investigation file.
All covert surveillance operations are confidential and will be managed on a need to know basis.
All staff who become aware of any surveillance operation will not divulge that knowledge to any other person other than to advise the C&E leader of how they came to learn of the surveillance operations.
System Operation and Set Up
Only trained personnel may set up the system.
Use of the system is restricted to those locations where there are reasonable grounds to believe an illegal activity has occurred or is likely to occur. Those grounds will be documented and recorded on the appropriate investigation file.
Cameras must not be directed to look into windows of buildings.
Only authorized persons may have access to the system's controls and to its reception equipment.
Covert surveillance devices (cameras) may be masked, camouflaged or hidden from view.
Covert surveillance devices may be trained on private land but must not be installed on the private land under surveillance. Covert surveillance operations or the set up of covert surveillance systems may take place on private land with the written permission of the land owner or occupier.
If the system creates a record, the following procedures for access, use, disclosure, retention and destruction are to be implemented.
All surveillance system operators will be aware that their operations are subject to internal and or external audits and that they may be called upon to justify their surveillance interest in any given individual or circumstance.