Durham Police Release Report Regarding Body-Worn Cameras

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

As we have previously blogged, body-worn cameras have been a topic of discussion by the Durham Regional Police Service since 2014 and this topic has recently re-emerged with the release of a report evaluating the body-worn camera pilot project in Durham Region. 

Between June 2018 and June 2019, a pilot project was in place and approximately 80 officers in Pickering and Ajax, and traffic enforcement officers and members of the Festive RIDE team, were equipped with body-worn cameras.  These officers recorded more than 26,616 videos.  Thirty-two per cent of the recordings were categorized as evidence and thirty per cent of them have been or will be used as evidence in court for criminal and provincial offences trials. 

THE DECISION TO PROCEED WITH A REPORT ON THE PILOT PROJECT

In August, Ajax Councillor Marilyn Crawford and Whitby Councillor Elizabeth Roy brought a motion to reconvene the body-worn camera team and prepare a report evaluating the pilot project, which was to be completed in May 2020 but had been on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to Councillor Crawford:

Body-worn cameras provide the accountability with no requirement of change in legislation.  This is a tangible way of showing our community that is demanding accountability and transparency in our policing.  This is one way that we can do that. 

Furthermore, Councillor Roy stated in support of providing Durham Police Services with body-worn cameras:

We are in a day where the criticism is quite critical.  This is about protecting not just the police force but also giving the support to the community and looking at options of how we can re-evaluate bad practices, or practices that just have not been corrected.

After numerous amendments, the motion passed with a unanimous vote.  Oshawa Councillor Brian Nicholson, speaking on behalf of his community, stated:

The overwhelming majority of the citizens of our region and beyond do want to have a record kept of the interactions between the community and the police.  It’s called accountability and transparency and that is what is expected of us.

THE REPORT REGARDING BODY-WORN CAMERAS BY DURHAM POLICE

A lengthy report presented to the Durham Police Services Board has revealed that outfitting officers with body-worn cameras will cost Durham police approximately $3.81 million a year.  The report also contains a detailed analysis of data gathered to date, as well as the officers’ and the public’s perception regarding the technology.

According to the report, it is recommended that the body-worn cameras be phased in for front-line officers over the next two years.  This would require an initial one-time implementation cost of $500,000.

The report concluded that the deployment of the body-worn cameras “will provide value to our internal colleagues, partner agencies, and the community”.  More specifically, the writers found that the use of body-worn cameras would provide value by increasing the quality of evidence, positively impacting prosecutions and court proceedings, improving trust and transparency, enhancing accountability and improving service effectiveness.  However, the report does address the fact that there are “limited objective measurable data to suggest there are multiple substantive benefits to implement” a body-worn camera program and there is no room in the current police service budget to support the program.

The Police Services Board is currently reviewing the 500 page report to determine its next steps regarding the implementation of body-worn cameras in Durham region.

TORONTO POLICE SERVICES HAVE BEGUN USING BODY-WORN CAMERAS

Police officers at Toronto’s 23 Division began wearing body-worn cameras a few weeks ago, and by the fall of 2021 more than 2,300 Toronto police officers will be equipped with cameras.

The cameras will be switched on when the officers are on the way to a call.  However, there are some situations where officers are permitted to turn the cameras off.  These circumstances include those involving children, victims who are not dressed, and those who do not want to be filmed as it may be a sensitive situation.  Officers will be required to use their judgement in determining when to turn the cameras off.

Nevertheless, officers who are found to have turned their camera off when they shouldn’t have could be subjected to penalties of docked pay and their supervisors could be penalized for this decision as well.

The body-worn camera technology allows for supervisors to review what was occurring at the time the camera was turned off and determine whether it “made sense and was appropriate”.

We will continue to report in this blog on any developments with respect to body-worn cameras in Ontario and the decision by Durham Police as to whether to provide body-cameras to their officers. 

In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding charges that have been laid against you or regarding your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour telephone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice.