Body cameras for police gets thumbs up in B.C.

Body-worn cameras will do B.C. police good, recommends all-party report

  • Feb. 24, 2015 6:00 p.m.

By Tamsyn Burgmann, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – A British Columbia legislative committee has recommended the provincial government “aggressively pursue” whatever steps are necessary to suit up police with body-mounted cameras.

The proposal from an all-party special committee is “strongly supported” by its members, who urged the government to undertake consultations and then implement the measure in a report released on Monday.

It comes just days after the country’s federal and provincial privacy watchdogs jointly appealed to police departments nationwide to consider how equipping officers could infringe on the public’s privacy.

It also takes a page from the Vancouver Police Department, which in October became the first force in B.C. to outfit officers with wearable cameras when they dismantled a protracted homeless encampment.

“It’s the direction that a lot of police forces are going because it provides a lot more insight into the valuable work that the men and women do,” said Mike Morris, the committee’s chair and member of assembly for the governing Liberals.

But he noted the committee is aware that privacy czars have signalled caution, and for jurisdictions considering implementation “to see what kinds of legal roadblocks might be in the way.”

The recommendation was formed on the basis of several factors, including the rising use of body-worn cameras in other Canadian cities, which shows the measure would not only be “feasible” but “benefit law enforcement and citizens alike.”

Both Toronto and Calgary are already in the process of expanding the use of cameras.

The committee also described the move as a “really practical suggestion” that would be a natural progression within current technological capabilities.

Last October, Vancouver police donned light-weight, high-definition GoPro video cameras in a limited trial to clear away makeshift shelters from a park in the city’s impoverished Downtown Eastside.

In a presentation to the committee last fall, University of Victoria law Prof. Michelle Lawrence pointed to nine coroners’ inquests that recommended the use of recording devices by police. She said the cost of equipment pales in comparison to the injuries and harms suffered when there’s not enough evidence showing what happened during a police encounter.

The recommendation comes as part of a broader report reviewing the province’s Independent Investigations Office, the police watchdog asked to investigate cases in which people are seriously injured or killed by police officers.

Spencer Chandra Herbert, the committee’s deputy chair and a member of the Opposition New Democrats, said that body-worn cameras remove the need to rely on people’s memories or notes.

He said cameras would greatly benefit investigators in cases where police may have been involved in a deadly incident.

“They want the evidence to come out and show if they’ve operated within the law and they did everything to reduce antagonism or aggression,” he said. “And if they break the rules, we need that evidence too.”

Last week, personal-information protection officials from across Canada released a document that provides guidance into the widespread use of cameras. It encouraged pilot programs first and said safeguards are imperative, such as encryption, restricted access and strict retention periods.

Josh Paterson, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said that while his organization does not oppose the measure, they want a detailed set of rules to be installed alongside the technology.

“Who gets to control the footage? How long is it kept? Who has access to it? To what purposes can it later be used? When will it be destroyed? What will the officers’ rights be in relation to it?” are all questions that need to be answered, Paterson said.

He said protocol must be firm to prevent abuse, such as a scenario where officers might record indiscriminately to the point of creating a new blanket-layer of surveillance.

B.C.’s ministry of justice must green light the recommendation as a first step. Then work can begin with police departments to determine budgets and what circumstances would be most appropriate for camera use.

Follow @TamsynBurgmann on Twitter

Just Posted

Seasonal cabins threatened by Cool Creek blaze

Fire burning out of control southeast of Princeton

BC Wildfire has close eyes on Snowy Mountain wildfire

BC Wildfire has a variety of plans depending how the wildfire near Keremeos changes in coming days

Fire burning near Olalla still out of control

BC Wildfire crews are responding to a 144 hectare blaze near Keremeos

Sparks set to fly in new Okanagan College welding facility

Welding students based in Penticton will now have access to the new, $2.2 million facility

BC Wildfire crew rescues lost puppies

They were just leaving the Monashee Complex of fires when they found the cutest creatures.

More smoggy air for the Okanagan

Breathing conditions are improving, though still not ideal

Evacuation alert for Dark Lake Valley are

There are 21 properties are affected

B.C. team stays alive in Little League World Series after another nail-biter

Surrey-based squad scored a 6-4 win over Mexico reps in Williamsport on Monday

Kids, seniors at risk as smoke from distant fires hangs over parts of B.C.

B.C. Centre for Disease Control says children’s lungs don’t fully develop until about age 10

B.C. mother charged in 7-year-old daughter’s death appears in court

The 36-year-old mother, of Langley’s Aaliyah Rosa, has been charged with second-degree murder

Thieves target tires and rims in Shuswap

Salmon Arm RCMP report two recent incidents, a van used in one theft was stolen in Surrey

VIDEO: Teen soccer phenomenon Alphonso Davies to visit B.C. kids camp

The 17-year-old Vancouver Whitecap player is one of the youngest players in MLS history

25-year-old Edmonton man pronounced dead on Shuswap Lake houseboat

Sicamous RCMP deem death to be non suspicious, BC Coroners Service investigating

Nearly 7 million late-run sockeye due to return to Shuswap

Officials hope promising Scotch Creek early-return bodes well for Adams River run

Most Read