body-worn cameras

Public Petitions for Police to be Outfitted with Body-Worn Cameras

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Pressure has begun to mount throughout Canada for police officers to wear body cameras while on the job.

Growing anger and demands for answers by Canadians has escalated following the death of 29-year-old Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who fell from a 24th floor balcony on May 27, 2020 during an encounter with police, the death of Ejaz Choudry, who was shot and killed by police during a mental health crisis call in Mississauga, and the fatal death of D’Andre Campbell at his home in Brampton.

These cases, and other similar ones, are sparking a global mission to eradicate systemic racism in policing.  One of the proposed solutions is for the police to utilize body-worn cameras, which are currently in use by a only a few police services across the country.  The biggest one being the Calgary Police Service which has 1,150 front-line officers equipped with body cameras.

A petition addressed to Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders has gathered more than 100,000 signatures.  The petition asks that all officers wear body cameras whenever responding to a call in an effort to hold officers accountable for their actions.

Chief Saunders is in support of mandatory body cameras for his officers and is hoping to begin outfitting his officers with this technology sometime this year, especially in response to the death of Korchinski-Paquet.  He stated:

This is a textbook case as to why I have been advocating for body-worn cameras and I’m now fast-tracking to the best of my ability to allow that process to speed up.

Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated he was advocating to provincial premiers to equip police with body-worn cameras in an effort to eradicate allegations of racism and brutality.  These cameras would effectively document the police interaction with the public.

CALGARY POLICE SERVICE EXPERIENCE WITH BODY-WORN CAMERAS

Staff Sgt. Travis Baker is in charge of the body camera project for the Calgary Police Service, which has been in operation for the past 15 months.  Officers are trained to turn on the camera any time they begin an interaction with the public and are required to tell people that the camera is running. 

According to Sgt. Baker the body cameras have had positive results on policing in Calgary.  He stated:

We’re not out there to hurt people, we are out there to help people, and we want to capture all those interactions that we have with everyone regardless of what it is. 

… Pretty much if you run into a uniformed officer on the street, they’re going to be wearing a body-worn camera.  It’s pretty easy to spot – it’s right in the middle of their chest and it usually has a big glowing red light on it when it’s recording. … I think it keeps everybody on an even playing field… the camera’s unbiased, it doesn’t have an opinion.  It just records what happens in front of it.  …

Sgt. Baker believes that the body-worn cameras de-escalate the situation when officers are interacting with the public:

I think it changes the behaviour of both the officer and the person they’re dealing with, be it victim, witness or accused, because they can see the camera running.  We can get that kind of de-escalation right off the hop.  People know it’s running so they slow down and start thinking about what they’re doing.

The cameras are also an evidence gathering tool which can be used in court.  The video footage can provide details that may have been missed and if there are multiple cameras in use at an incident, it can provide views from different angles. 

DURHAM POLICE BODY CAMERA STUDY ON HIATUS

We have previously blogged about a pilot project in Durham, which ran between June 2018 and June 2019, wherein officers in Pickering and Ajax and traffic enforcement officers involved in the Festive RIDE team were equipped with body-worn cameras.  Those officers recorded more than 26,616 videos.  Approximately half of the video footage has been categorized as evidence and 30% of the recorded footage has been or will be used as evidence in court.

This type of technology was being reviewed to weigh the benefits of providing accountability of the officers in their interactions with the public and the costs of the increased workload and associated expenses involved with data processing and storage. 

In April 2020, Durham Police Service announced that the consideration of implementing body-worn cameras was being put on hold as the COVID-19 pandemic progressed.  At this time, there has been no further information regarding when the study will continue and whether any determinations have been made to resume the use of body-worn cameras in Durham region.

We will continue to follow any updates regarding the supply and use of body-worn cameras by police services throughout Ontario and will report any new developments in this blog.

In the meantime, if you have been charged with a criminal offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights it is recommended that you contact an experienced criminal defence lawyer.  The lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP have many years of experience defending a wide variety of criminal offences.  Contact our office today online or at 905-404-1947.  We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Durham Police Body Camera Pilot Project Ends

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP


Durham Regional Police Services (“DRPS”) have been involved in a one-year pilot project called the “Body-Worn Camera Project”.  Eighty front-line police officers have been wearing the devices while on duty for the past year.  The pilot project is now being evaluated and it will be determined by the end of the year whether the body-worn cameras (“BWC”) will continue to be used on a daily basis.

BODY-WORN CAMERA PROJECT

The Body-Worn Camera Project was launched on June 22, 2018 at a cost of $1.2 million.  The price tag included the need for training, IT support, video management, evaluation and storage costs. 

The cellphone-sized devices are attached to the officers while on-duty and record specific police interactions with the public, not an entire shift.  It is at the officer’s discretion when to activate the cameras and when to turn them off.

Sergeant Jason Bagg believes that BWCs can enhance training, investigations and prosecution outcomes.  He is hopeful that BWCs will result in more guilty pleas and higher conviction rates in domestic violence cases.  He states:

Body-worn cameras have been used around the world to collect evidence for prosecutions, they’ve been used to improve community trust, police transparency, policy legitimacy and procedural justice.

However, despite the benefits of BWCs, this method has been met with criticism.  There are critics that are concerned about privacy and the fear that the video may become public.  There is also a concern that the processing of the video to be used in court may create delays, which may lead to charges being dropped.

BWC STUDY

Lakehead University researchers have been studying the effects of body-worn cameras (“BWC”) by police officers and their interaction with the public.  From November 20, 2018 to December 8, 2018, researchers joined the Festive R.I.D.E. program (designed to reduce impaired driving by setting up checkpoints to randomly stop motorists) with Durham Regional Police Service. 

During this study, officers wore cameras for eight shifts and did not wear them for seven shifts.  All officers involved in the study began their interaction with the public with an introduction, followed by advising the motorists that they were wearing a BWC and would be recording the interaction during the R.I.D.E. stop.

Surveys were given to 3,636 motorists following their R.I.D.E. check, which included questions about the R.I.D.E. experience and their general opinions regarding the police.  A total of 287 surveys were analyzed and results showed that those who interacted with an officer wearing a BWC felt more positive about all outcomes measured in the survey.  The study found that those who interacted with officers wearing a BWC had more positive perceptions of:

  • Officer politeness during the R.I.D.E. interaction;
  • Officer fairness during the R.I.D.E. interaction;
  • Officer performance in general;
  • Confidence in police in general;
  • Police fairness;
  • Support for police use of BWCs.

The researchers concluded that the officers wearing BWCs and advising the public led to positive public perception of officers and the police in general, in addition to positive support for BWCs by the public.  Drivers, in general, found the officers wearing BWCs to be more polite and trustworthy.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

DRPS officers turned off their BWCs on June 22, 2019, at the end of the pilot project.  Officers have recorded more than 26,000 videos, and it is estimated that 30% of the recordings have been or will be used as evidence in court for criminal and provincial offence trials.

The technology is now being evaluated as part of an ongoing cost-benefit analysis.  The cameras have been found to increase the workload for officers who use them, and there are extra costs associated with data processing and storage. 

Seven months into the project, DRPS found that there was no significant increase in officer overtime, reduced call responses or affected traffic enforcement.  DRPS did find that officers using BWCs were spending approximately 10% more time on scene (approximately 5 to 12 more minutes).  Sgt. Bagg also confirmed that there had been an increase in workload as a result of managing cases with camera evidence at the half-way mark of the project, however, it was unclear what the impact was. 

A final report on the pilot project is expected to be issued by the end of the year.

We will continue to report any developments or results of an evaluation of the BWC pilot project on this blog.

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.