Montreal

Valérie Plante says body cameras coming for Montreal police, responding to renewed calls from activists

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who in the past has resisted outfitting police officers with body cameras, now says the city will adopt them as soon as possible.

Mayor says other policing measures, including new street-check policy, to be in place by fall

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says she wants police to use body cameras. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who in the past has resisted outfitting police officers with body cameras, now says the city will adopt them as soon as possible.

Plante also said Tuesday she is intent on improving training for police and drafting stricter rules regarding when officers can conduct street checks, which entail asking citizens for their identification.

The new rules will be in place by the fall, she said.

"It's all part of this tool box that we need to have a better grip on possible systemic discrimination," she said. 

Calls for police reform have been growing louder around the world since George Floyd, who was black, was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis last week.

Plante nixed a proposal to use body cameras last year, citing the cost and problems with the technology. She did not provide a firm timeline Tuesday for when they would be put in place. 

Three Montreal boroughs, Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Montréal-Nord and Pierrefonds-Roxboro, have passed motions urging the city to adopt them.

So far, Calgary is the only Canadian police service that has rolled out body cams for all its front-line officers.

In the wake of the recent events south of the border, police departments in Guelph and Ottawa are now considering the tool. MPs and MLAs in Nunavut are calling for the RCMP officers in the territory to wear them, too. 

In 2019, after a year-long trial by 78 officers, the SPVM concluded body cameras have little impact on interventions, present logistical challenges and leave most officers who have to wear them feeling as if they're under surveillance. 

Not only did police dislike wearing cameras, but the cost of outfitting all 3,000 patrol officers with them was estimated at the time to be $17.4 million over five years — an estimate that later came under question.

For Svetlana Chernienko, a mental health advocate and mother of four black children, including two teens, the fear of racial profiling by police is near constant. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

Svetlana Chernienko, a mental health advocate and mother of four black children in Montreal, wants to see them in use. 

She said it's simple: if police actions are recorded with body cameras, citizens and the courts will be able to see which officers serve and protect the public and "who's going above the law."

"If these racial tensions keep rising, it's just going to continue," Chernienko said. 

Advocates for body cameras say now is a better time than ever for police forces in Quebec to adopt them.

Alain Babineau, a former RCMP officer who now works with the Montreal-based Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, said he's hopeful the movement south of the border will push Montreal to move more quickly.

He said cameras are important not only in establishing public trust, but also for officers' safety and accountability.

With files from Simon Nakonechny

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