Body cameras for police gets thumbs up in B.C.

Body-worn cameras will do B.C. police good, recommends all-party report

  • Feb. 24, 2015 4:00 p.m.

By Tamsyn Burgmann, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – A British Columbia legislative committee has recommended the provincial government “aggressively pursue” whatever steps are necessary to suit up police with body-mounted cameras.

The proposal from an all-party special committee is “strongly supported” by its members, who urged the government to undertake consultations and then implement the measure in a report released on Monday.

It comes just days after the country’s federal and provincial privacy watchdogs jointly appealed to police departments nationwide to consider how equipping officers could infringe on the public’s privacy.

It also takes a page from the Vancouver Police Department, which in October became the first force in B.C. to outfit officers with wearable cameras when they dismantled a protracted homeless encampment.

“It’s the direction that a lot of police forces are going because it provides a lot more insight into the valuable work that the men and women do,” said Mike Morris, the committee’s chair and member of assembly for the governing Liberals.

But he noted the committee is aware that privacy czars have signalled caution, and for jurisdictions considering implementation “to see what kinds of legal roadblocks might be in the way.”

The recommendation was formed on the basis of several factors, including the rising use of body-worn cameras in other Canadian cities, which shows the measure would not only be “feasible” but “benefit law enforcement and citizens alike.”

Both Toronto and Calgary are already in the process of expanding the use of cameras.

The committee also described the move as a “really practical suggestion” that would be a natural progression within current technological capabilities.

Last October, Vancouver police donned light-weight, high-definition GoPro video cameras in a limited trial to clear away makeshift shelters from a park in the city’s impoverished Downtown Eastside.

In a presentation to the committee last fall, University of Victoria law Prof. Michelle Lawrence pointed to nine coroners’ inquests that recommended the use of recording devices by police. She said the cost of equipment pales in comparison to the injuries and harms suffered when there’s not enough evidence showing what happened during a police encounter.

The recommendation comes as part of a broader report reviewing the province’s Independent Investigations Office, the police watchdog asked to investigate cases in which people are seriously injured or killed by police officers.

Spencer Chandra Herbert, the committee’s deputy chair and a member of the Opposition New Democrats, said that body-worn cameras remove the need to rely on people’s memories or notes.

He said cameras would greatly benefit investigators in cases where police may have been involved in a deadly incident.

“They want the evidence to come out and show if they’ve operated within the law and they did everything to reduce antagonism or aggression,” he said. “And if they break the rules, we need that evidence too.”

Last week, personal-information protection officials from across Canada released a document that provides guidance into the widespread use of cameras. It encouraged pilot programs first and said safeguards are imperative, such as encryption, restricted access and strict retention periods.

Josh Paterson, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said that while his organization does not oppose the measure, they want a detailed set of rules to be installed alongside the technology.

“Who gets to control the footage? How long is it kept? Who has access to it? To what purposes can it later be used? When will it be destroyed? What will the officers’ rights be in relation to it?” are all questions that need to be answered, Paterson said.

He said protocol must be firm to prevent abuse, such as a scenario where officers might record indiscriminately to the point of creating a new blanket-layer of surveillance.

B.C.’s ministry of justice must green light the recommendation as a first step. Then work can begin with police departments to determine budgets and what circumstances would be most appropriate for camera use.

Follow @TamsynBurgmann on Twitter

Just Posted

Freezing rain warning in effect for Terrace

Environment Canada has issued an alert

Caledonia Secondary School students recognized with broadcast award

Media arts class partnered with CTFK TV, RCMP to air PSA video campaign

Chevron’s move to exit Kitimat LNG project a dash of ‘cold water’ for gas industry

Canada Energy Regulator approved a 40-year licence to export natural gas for Kitimat LNG

City to see eight per cent tax hike in 2020

Budget draft to be presented at City Hall Dec. 17

Boil water notice in effect for Kitsumkalum

Waterline was hit during test drilling Dec. 10

VIDEO: Octopus, bald eagle battle after bird ‘bites off more than it can chew’ in B.C. waters

B.C. crew films fight between the two feisty animals in Quatsino off north Vancouver Island

Raptors fans show Kawhi the love in his return to Toronto

Leonard receives championship ring, leads new club to win

Process to identify those killed in Gabriola plane crash could take days

Canadian flight museum suggests Alex Bahlsen of Mill Bay died in Tuesday’s crash

Sentencing hearings begin as Prince Rupert man pleads guilty to possession of child pornography

Mike Christopher Hagen charged with possession of child pornography earlier this year

‘Honest mistake:’ RCMP says B.C. cannabis shop can keep image of infamous Mountie

Sam Steele wearing military, not RCMP uniform in image depicted in Jimmy’s Cannabis window

B.C. conservation officers put down fawn blinded by pellet gun on Vancouver Island

Young deer found near construction site in Hammond Bay area in Nanaimo, B.C.

Laid-off forest workers converge on B.C. legislature

Loggers call for action on strike, provincial stumpage

B.C. guide fined $2K in first conviction under new federal whale protection laws

Scott Babcock found guilty of approaching a North Pacific humpback whale at less than 100 metres

Feds urge Air Canada to fix booking problems as travel season approaches

The airline introduced the new reservation system more than three weeks ago

Most Read