The Toronto Police Service is considering outfitting all uniformed officers with body-worn video cameras.
The force presented results of its Police and Community Engagement Review (PACER) Wednesday afternoon, a report sparked in part by allegations of police bias and racial profiling. One of the recommendations out of that report is the idea of equipping all officers with cameras as a means to provide both the police and the public with better accountability.
On Wednesday, Deputy Chief Peter Sloly called the cameras a “relatively new development,” and said the force is still in the process of researching the technology and examining logistics. “We’ll have to look at the IT supports, the governance – there’ll be privacy issues,” he said. Deputy Chief Sloly added that, because the program is still in the research phase, it isn’t being included on the draft budget for 2014.
Depending on the style, the small camera can be mounted on a pair of glasses or onto an officer’s uniform, and documents events from the officer’s point of view. Cameras are advertised online for as low as $300 and, depending on the model, can run over a thousand dollars. The force will be looking to other cities and their experiences before deciding whether or not to use them in Toronto, Deputy Chief Sloly said.
In recent years, police in Victoria, Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa, have all run pilot programs with body-worn cameras. Of those cities, only Calgary has committed to continue using them.
Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack questioned the recommendation, saying he would rather see police dollars spent on hiring new officers. “We haven’t hired in three years, and with the hard-fought police dollars, I’d rather see the resources put into boots on the ground,” he said.
Sukanya Pillay, acting executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, expressed concern over the move, saying the force will need to think through how such video recordings would be stored, and who would have access to them. “They seem to be suggesting it’s to monitor their own behaviour,” she said. “But if you have all these things on your databases, what are the other potential uses of this? Have they thought this through?”
She also suggested that people may express reluctance to call police if they know that any interaction they have with officers might be recorded.
The idea of equipping officers in Toronto with body-worn cameras has come up through the years, most recently after the shooting death of Sammy Yatim aboard a streetcar in July. But Toronto police have not formally considered them until now, spokeswoman Meaghan Gray said.