Nova Scotia

Halifax police board to consider body camera pilot project

The Halifax board of police commissioners has asked for a report on the feasibility of conducting a pilot project that would see police officers wear body cameras. The idea was rejected by police officials in 2017, but board members think it is time to take another look.

'I wholeheartedly support this. As a Black citizen, I would feel a lot more comfortable,' says board member

The use of police body cameras has attracted more attention after the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed American who was murdered by police. (CBC)

The Halifax board of police commissioners has asked for a report on the feasibility of conducting a pilot project that would see police officers wear body cameras.

The idea was rejected by Halifax police officials in 2017, but Coun. Tony Mancini, a member of the police commission, thinks it is time to take another look.

"Given the terrible tragedy with George Floyd, recently body camera footage has come up and that footage showed the interaction from the police from the start was not good," he said.

Floyd, an unarmed Black man, was murdered after being pinned under the knee of a white police officer for nearly nine minutes.

Carlos Beals, a citizen representative on the police commission, voted in favour of the motion, saying it was an issue of accountability.

"I wholeheartedly support this," he said. "As a Black citizen, I would feel a lot more comfortable."

Why Halifax police previously turned down idea

In 2017, due to concerns over cost and the secure storage of the video footage captured by body cameras, Halifax Regional Police turned down the idea.

At the time, a report suggested using 50 cameras could cost $1.4 million annually.

Current police chief Dan Kinsella said the prices have dropped from $20,000 per officer to between $2,000-$3,000. Kinsella told the police board the technology has also improved.

"I believe body-worn cameras can help with transparency and certainly help us build public trust," he said.

But other councillors warned the technology is not a single solution to a complex problem.

"We have to understand that people have lost their lives when officers have worn body cams," said Coun. Lindell Smith. "Video evidence has also been withheld for many months or years when incidents happen."

Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella says the cost of body cameras has dropped significantly in recent years. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

Coun. Lisa Blackburn said expectations need to be managed.

"There are studies that have found only modest reductions in the use of force and civilian complaints when body cams were worn," she said.

Police board chair Natalie Borden said the issue was "not straightforward and should not be rushed."

RCMP Chief Supt. Janis Gray said the RCMP would do a separate report on the issue. The RCMP did a feasibility study in 2015 and is already planning to have its officers wear body cameras.

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