Edmonton police working to equip vehicles with in-car cameras, chief says

The Edmonton Police Service is working to equip all vehicles with in-car cameras within 18 months, says Chief Dale McFee.

Dale McFee says he hopes to have project completed within 18 months

An in-car camera installed in a police vehicle. Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee says the technology is more useful than body cameras worn by officers. (Samantha Lui/CBC)

The Edmonton Police Service is working to equip all vehicles with in-car cameras, says Chief Dale McFee.

"We're hoping that we can have everything completed in the cars, start to finish, within 18 months," McFee told reporters Thursday following a meeting of the Edmonton Police Commission.

"We're trying to find how quickly we can get there," he said. "Obviously there's some potential vendors that we already have agreements with. So we need to figure out if we can do it, and how quickly."

McFee said in-car cameras have advantage over body cameras worn by officers.

Body-worn cameras offer a narrow field of view and don't show much of the officer's behaviour, he told the police commission meeting. "It's looking at the other individual's behaviour," he said.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said RCMP officers should add cameras to their uniforms. Trudeau made his comments in the midst of widespread protests against police, triggered by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other recent killings by police officers.

McFee said he's aware of Trudeau's support for body cameras but said EPS sees them as "low-value" and "low-impact" devices that haven't been shown to increase the trust between officers and members of the public.

In 2015, Edmonton police released the findings of a three-year study on body cameras. The study found that the force wasn't ready for the technology and that the technology was not yet adequate.

McFee said Thursday that equipping Edmonton police with body cameras would involve an initial investment of $6 million and then $2 million a year in operating costs. He didn't specify the cost of adding cameras to police vehicles.

"In times like this, we think there's way more value to invest in the person behind the camera and the training ... and then also into the community to ensure that we're building that trust and support within the community," he said.

"So, that said, we are going to move forward with dash cams."

In-car cameras provide a wider field of view and have microphones with a 100-metre range, he said. "That actually tells the whole story," he said.

The in-car cameras can be set to start recording when the lights and sirens go on, whereas with body cameras, turning on the device on can be left up to the officer's discretion.

In-car cameras also capture officers' interactions with the person being transported in the vehicle, McFee noted.


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