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Cops with cameras future of policing: Vancouver chief Add to ...

Wearing video cameras will be routine for Vancouver police officers in the next few years, says the police chief in Canada's third-largest city.

Chief Constable Jim Chu says he favours the idea, suggesting it would be the ultimate means of preserving the truth in incidents that draw police attention.

"This is a new world. Ten years ago, you would never see video. Now you're going to see it all the time," Chief Chu said in an interview.

"I'll give you the future: Officers will be wearing body cameras."

Chief Chu, who was appointed chief in 2007, said he expects they will be routine in Vancouver before his term as chief is over. Police chiefs in Vancouver serve five-year terms, although their contracts can be renewed with the agreement of the chief and the police board.

Chief Chu said he expected body cameras would "ensure many more guilty pleas than what we have now," referring, for example, to domestic-abuse cases.

He also referred to cases of causing a disturbance. "The person is yelling and screaming and everything like that. The best evidence is actually a video of what the person is doing, and the crowd around it."

There is no planned pilot project to test such cameras, but Chief Chu said he expects one will come eventually.

"I think it's the future," Chief Chu said. "How the ground rules will look? They will flesh out over time."

For example, there would be questions, he said, about whether the cameras would be on all the time or only during incidents or investigations.

Chief Chu said the force is monitoring other pilot projects.

Police in Victoria were the first in Canada to test such cameras in a project that ran from July 1 until November.

Staff Sergeant Darren Laur, project co-ordinator for the Victoria assessment, said in an interview that the review began after a deputy chief passed on an article about "Bobby-cams" being used in Great Britain, prompting debate within the department.

Staff Sgt. Laur said the cameras, which were worn on officers' heads, were issued to bike units, beat units and traffic units for field testing, and turned on when officers became involved in investigations. There were about a dozen cameras in the field.

The devices were acquired from Great Britain and Australia.

"The whole purpose was for evidence capture," he said.

Staff Sgt. Laur said he was not surprised at the interest of Vancouver police in the cameras. "Video evidence is the best evidence," he said.

However, he declined to comment in detail about how the project worked out.

"We've completed our report. At this point, I don't want to tip our hand on what we found," he said. "We've identified positive and negatives with the technology."

Installing video cameras in the body armour of officers was one of the recommendations in the report of Paul Kennedy, head of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, on police conduct in the 2007 death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski in a confrontation with four Mounties.

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