Plan for Edmonton police to use body cameras has been put 'on hold'

“There were more higher priority packages that had to go forward to council during the request for budget and they overrode this program," says EPS Security Director Peter Clissold.

EPS Security Director says the program was shelved due to lack of funding

A Calgary Police officer shows a body-worn camera in a file photo. Edmonton police have shelved a plan to have officers wear similar devices due to the cost of the program. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

A plan to roll out 60 body cameras for the traffic division of Edmonton Police will not be going forward, at least not right now.

Peter Clissold, security director for EPS, says a lack of funding is why the program has been shelved. 

"There were more higher priority packages that had to go forward to council during the request for budget and they overrode this program," said Clissold.

The project is by no means a cheap one. With an initial hardware and software cost of $412,000 and an operating cost of $425,000, the program would run just shy of costing a million dollars.

Clissold says there are also uncertainties that come with police-worn body cameras including the prosecutorial value of video tape, the massive time spent reviewing footage, and the lack of proper infrastructure for storing this amount of material. 

Privacy concerns have also been raised. 

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A CBC News crew accompanies a police bicycle unit as the force begins using body-worn cameras in the field

Last summer, police released the results of a three-year study on body cameras.

Several studies in the U.S. indicated that if police are wearing a camera during an arrest, it can cause a reduction in the number of complaints they receive about unnecessary use of force.

The Edmonton study did not find that correlation but D'Arcy DePoe, a lawyer and past president of Criminal Trial Lawyers' Association, says body cameras can still bring benefit to both the citizen and the police.

"There's nothing truer that you're going to get than video and audio recording of a transaction between a member of the police and the public. It protects both sides," said DePoe.

"It's going to protect police against spurious allegations, and it's going to protect citizens against the wrong exercise of police authority.

"I can't think of a good reason of why they wouldn't want this."

The cameras would have been integrated into the lapel radios police already wear. (Calgary Police Service/YouTube)

DePoe challenges the reasons given by EPS to sideline the program. 

"I would think it should be a high priority," said DePoe. "To say that 'we don't want to spend that money' initially is false economy because how much money would they save down the road in prosecutions and hearings involving police officers and ASIRT investigations and so on."

Just because the project doesn't have funding right now doesn't mean that it's gone for good, Clissold said. 

He said the plan is merely on hold. Until funding can be allocated, it's best to just to remain "patient," he added.