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‘Iron-clad’ policy must accompany police-worn body cameras in Vancouver, says expert – BC

An expert on the effects and outcomes of police body-worn cameras warns that if a program equipping Vancouver police with them goes ahead, “ironclad” regulation must accompany it.

Christopher Schneider, a sociology professor at Brandon University in Manitoba, has authored several peer-reviewed articles on the subject and warned that body-worn cameras, which primarily capture the public rather than the officer, do not provide the full context of an interaction with police.

“With body-worn cameras, transparency and accountability are largely buzzwords that have been used by politicians and the police because there isn’t much consensus at the moment on what that means,” Schneider explained. “Visibility is an essential characteristic of transparency.”

The devices are far from being a “perfect” tool for enhancing transparency and accountability, he added, noting that they could fall off in a pursuit, could be knocked out by officers and lack the battery or storage capacity to work the full length of an officer’s shift.

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Vancouver City Councilors vote to introduce body-worn cameras for police

Vancouver City Council on Wednesday night approved the use of cameras in principle for the Vancouver Police Department and set the ultimate goal of equipping every frontline officer on duty by 2025. Staff have been directed to contact the council in 2024 with policy recommendations and cost estimates.

It was a campaign pledge by Mayor Ken Sim’s ABC party and was accepted by all seven ABC council members. Christine Boyle of OneCity and Adriane Carr and Pete Fry of the Greens opposed, arguing that the council should not vouch for a program without having all the facts in hand.

“There are serious concerns, there are budget concerns and there are operational concerns and there are pricing concerns,” Fry said Wednesday night. “They all have to be addressed.

“I don’t think that’s really best practice. I’m very uncomfortable with that kind of approach.”

Click here to play the video: 'Vancouver City Council appears poised to give the green light to police body cameras'

Vancouver City Council appears poised to give police body cameras the green light

Fry sought to delay council support for the cameras until after completing a mandatory privacy impact assessment and approving the Vancouver Police Department’s (VPD) request for $200,000 to conduct a pilot program.

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Opposing councilors have questioned the usefulness of a pilot if the plan is to outfit the force with cameras either way. Boyle attempted to amend the motion to have the pilot “inform” the council’s decision.

Delta Police are in the process of conducting their own body worn camera pilot. Police in Toronto and Calgary have already moved to deploy the controversial devices, and the RCMP is preparing to roll out 12,500 cameras in 700 departments, beginning with a 300-unit field test in three departments.

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Vancouver’s new mayor promises to move forward with body-worn cameras for police

ABC graph. Peter Meiszner said the party was elected by a majority on a platform that promised cameras for police and that provincial policing standards address many of the public’s concerns about privacy, transparency, data retention and surveillance.

“These body-worn cameras, used in many other jurisdictions, will help increase transparency in policing, ensure people are treated fairly and with respect, they will ensure people are not discriminated against or profiled , because there will be video evidence. ‘ Coun argued. Peter Meissner.

“We can’t afford to wait any longer, we can’t afford to waver about it for a few more years.”

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Vancouver police approach body cameras

But Schneider said empirical research on the effectiveness of body-worn cameras is “mixed.” Use of the equipment was correlated with increased use of force, decreased use of force and no statistically significant difference in use of force, depending on the circumstance, he told Global News.

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Given that body-worn cameras are likely to be introduced in many jurisdictions one way or another, he advised policymakers to develop strict guidelines about who can access the footage, how it’s stored, and what the consequences officers will be if they do turn off their cameras when they shouldn’t.

“What kind of independent oversight will there be?” he asked. “Will there be unrestricted access to body worn camera footage by third party groups, independent watchdog groups, who can look out for police misconduct or unlawful use of police force?”

Schneider advised the VPD to host a series of town halls with stakeholders, the public and affected communities whose input should influence regulations surrounding the cameras.

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Delta Police first wheel body worn cameras to the gang unit in BC

Vancouver Police spokesman Sgt. Steve Addison said the force welcomes public input and will reach out to other jurisdictions that have used cameras to lead their upcoming but undated pilot program.

He said the VPD was open to body-worn cameras, but noted that there were still many unanswered policy questions.

“The value we see in this potentially is that it could reduce the number of frivolous or annoying complaints made against officers and reduce the time it takes various regulatory agencies to conduct investigations — including in gathering evidence for criminal investigations,” said him on Thursday.

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“But we also understand that there are many people who are and will be uncomfortable with the idea of ​​being filmed or recorded and we need to ensure that people’s privacy is protected.”

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Why Are Quebec’s Top Two Police Forces Still Not Equipped With Body Cameras?

According to Kit Rothschild, Co-Executive Director of the PACE Society, some of the most vulnerable to body-worn cameras include homeless people, drug users, sex workers, Black and Indigenous peoples, and members of other racist and surveillance communities.

“The only things (body-worn cameras) are expensive, an invasion of privacy and they pose a serious risk of data breaches,” Rothschild said at the committee meeting on Wednesday.

“The handling, security and storage of this data would actually require more accountability from VPD than they are currently willing to provide.”

Rothschild questioned how the request aligns with Vancouver’s commitment to reconciliation, what type of consultations have taken place with affected communities, and expressed grave concern about surveillance requests.

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South Simcoe Police will equip all frontline officers with body worn cameras in 2023

According to state government standards, a privacy impact assessment must be completed and approved prior to the deployment of body worn cameras. The exact circumstances in which they may be used and information about the policy must also be made public.

Footage must be stored with restricted access and not be altered at any time, and can only be retained for a year from the date of recording, after which it must be deleted, the standards say.

ABC graph. Lenny Zhou, who wrote the motion to support the cameras, has repeatedly pointed to a 2015 report by the Select Legislative Committee through the Independent Investigative Bureau (IIO) that recommended the province “aggressively pursue police use of the devices.” “. Public Safety Secretary Mike Farnworth also backed the idea, he said Wednesday night.

A 2015 and 2016 annual report by the IIO that reviewed 71 of the watchdog’s investigations also found that body-worn cameras may have helped resolve 93 percent of investigations sooner, potentially resulting in cost savings and less stress for complainants and officials.

-With files by Catherine Urquhart

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