Toronto police are set to begin a pilot project intended to assess the effectiveness of body-worn cameras for front-officers in the wake of last summer's fatal police shooting of teenager Sammy Yatim.
This fall about 100 Toronto officers will wear the small cameras as the force tries to study their effectiveness in reducing the use of force in interactions with the public.
Yatim, 18, died after he was shot and Tasered by police aboard an empty streetcar last July. Const. James Forcillo is charged with second-degree murder for his role in the shooting.
Numerous videos of the shooting taken by passersby and posted online stirred public outrage about Yatim's death.
A report that followed the shooting recommended that police be equipped with body-worn cameras. The force will buy 100 body cameras and distribute them to officers in selected units and divisions in the city: 43 and 55 Divisions, traffic enforcement officers and the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) team.
Deputy Chief Peter Sloly said other forces that have used the cameras, both in trials and as a regular part of police equipment, have found they reduce both complaints against police and the use of force by front-line officers.
"It will assist in modifying the officers' behaviour, that's why the complaints go down and that's why we consider it a worthwhile investment."
But Mike McCormack, head of the Toronto Police Association, said the union has serious concerns about how the technology will be used.
McCormack said officers are also concerned about the privacy issues and the cost.
"Let's say this costs $10 million or $20 million," said McCormack in an interview Tuesday on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. "Is that a valuable use of police dollars?"
McCormack said he'd rather see front-line officers first equipped with Tasers, also known as stun guns.
Currently only Toronto police supervisors are equipped with Tasers.
The provincial government has allowed forces to put Tasers in the hands of all front-line officers. Outgoing Chief Bill Blair is in favour of expanding their use in Toronto, which he said gives officers a "less lethal" option during confrontations. Toronto's Police Services board has yet to decide whether they will expand stun-gun use.
Still, McCormack said he'd rather see front-line officers issued Tasers before the force moves further toward adopting body-worn cameras.