Kitchener-Waterloo

70 Waterloo regional police officers will be equipped with cameras for the next 6 months

Dozens of frontline officers with the Waterloo Regional Police Service will now be wearing body cameras as a part of a six month pilot project. The project also includes 40 in-vehicle cameras that will aid the service's traffic unit.

Officers will not be recording 24-hours and will have to disclose to the public when they start recording

For the next six months, 70 frontline officers and 40 cruisers with the Waterloo Regional Police Service's north and traffic divisions will be equipped with cameras as part of a pilot project. This is the body camera already in use in Fredericton, N.B. (CBC)

Starting today, 70 officers and 40 cruisers with the Waterloo Regional Police Service's (WRPS) north and traffic divisions will be equipped with cameras as part of a six month pilot project.

The project aims to foster better transparency and accountability for police interactions, while also assist officers with investigations and enforcement, said WRPS Chief Bryan Larkin during a virtual community engagement session Monday night.

"We're hoping that digital evidence will bring some clarity to our judicial process and see justice through," he said.

"We've also heard over the past 12 months from our community that they are looking to enhance trust and accountability in oversight in the police force and we do believe this project does provide that."

WRPS is among several other police forces in Ontario to pilot body worn cameras.

Some of the objectives of the project will focus on enhancing police accountability, capture accurate records of police interaction with the community and improve evidence for investigative, judicial and oversight purposes — such as provincial and criminal court and the Special Investigations Unit.

Police also hope it will lead to more fair and timely resolution of complaints and will look for community feedback on the effectiveness of the project.

'It's not for general surveillance'

During the virtual engagement, superintendent Shaena Morris shared how officers will use the technology, when officers will be recording, when they won't be, and addressed people's rights and concerns around privacy and consent. 

"It's important that we note that the body worn cameras and in-car video, their intention is only to capture investigative and enforcement activities," she said.

"It's not for general surveillance," she said.

Morris said officers will not be recording 24-hours and will have to disclose to the public when they start recording.

Morris said officers will not be allowed to obstruct the recording or mute the audio except in circumstances to protect the dignity of an individual such as in circumstances of nudity, state of undress or in medical care facilities. Other considerations include cultural or religious ceremonies, unless it is part of an investigation.

If officers do have to obstruct the lens, Morris said officers will have to verbally state in the recording why the video was obstructed and keep a record of it in their notebook.

Morris said supervisors will play an important role in the project. They will ensure officers are using the technology in accordance to the service's procedures and determine if an officer requires additional training by reviewing body cam and in-car video footage at least once a month, she said.

The pilot will run until the end of the year with several evaluations of the project expected to take place during and after the pilot is complete. Findings and evaluations will be presented to the WRPS board this coming fall.

You can watch the full presentation below:

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