Police union wants video cameras for officers
Critics say technology could be prohibitively expensive
The head of the Ottawa Police Association said he wants all uniformed officers equipped with body cameras to aid in their job and protect them from frivolous lawsuits.
Matthew Skof said Ottawa police officers have been targeted by a number of lawsuits over the use of force in the last two years and said the cameras would help protect the officers.
He said many of the videos that appear online on web-sharing sites such as YouTube don't tell the full story.
"Judicially we have become so much under attack that I think it's important to have our side explained," said Skof.
Skof also said video cameras might bolster conviction rates by acting as a supplement to the notes police take during their investigations.
Edmonton police are trying out the small cameras in a pilot project, and police in Victoria, B.C., experimented with the cameras in 2009 before abandoning them because of cost. But they have been used by police forces in the U.S., Australia and the United Kingdom.
Police chief says cost is an issue
Each video camera and the software required to operate it can cost up to $1,800.
Ottawa Police chief Vern White said that while it is a useful policing tool, equipping all 1,300 officers would cost the police service millions of dollars.
Ottawa Police Services Board chair Eli El-Chantiry said he might support the idea with more information, but said a cost-benefit analysis and an analysis of the privacy implications would need to be done first.
Many officers who spoke with CBC said they were concerned people would be less likely to talk to them if they knew they were being recorded.
Carleton University criminology professor Michael Kempa said the proposal might actually lead to more transparency for the police.
"It might eliminate frivolous complaints but also substantiate serious complaints brought against the police," said Kempa.
"Of course we know when people are being filmed — and critically, are aware they are being filmed — they tend to comport themselves a little bit better."