Toronto

Durham police one step closer to wearing body cameras

A report recommending a year-long pilot project involving 80 officers will be presented Monday to the Durham Police Services Board

Report recommending a year-long pilot project involving 80 officers will be presented Monday

Some members of Durham Regional Police Service could soon be wearing body-worn cameras as part of a pilot project after a similar experiment in Toronto last year. (CBC)

Durham Region police are one step closer to fitting officers with body-worn cameras.

A recommendation to set up a year-long pilot project involving as many as 80 officers will be part of a report presented Monday to the Durham Region Police Services Board.

"Public perception is everything," said Roger Anderson, the board's regional chair.

Roger Anderson, chair of the Durham Regional Services Board, welcomes the recommendation: 'I think body-worn cameras are as important as in-car cameras,' he said. (CBC)

The $1.2-million project has been about three years in the making. Anderson says while there are some challenges  — mainly the high cost and time required for officers to log video at the end of their shift — it's worth it.

"It'll benefit the public and it'll benefit the service, if the officer does something wrong," he said.

"We hope that doesn't happen, but if they do, we have evidence to show other officers ways not to do things."

A 'small step'

Joanne MacIsaac says her family supports any tool that could help reduce the use of excessive force by officers.

Her brother Michael was shot and killed at the age of 47 by a Durham officer after he ran from his Ajax home naked on a cold morning in December 2013.  The officer shot MacIsaac mere seconds after leaving his cruiser.

He was cleared of any wrongdoing in two investigations by the province's Special lnvestigations Unit and the Office of the Independent Police Review Director.

Michael MacIsaac on his wedding day. (Supplied by MacIsaac family)

"Do I think a body camera may have made him in less of a hurry to draw his weapon? Yes. And it would give us clearer picture of the interaction," said MacIsaac.

Still, she has questions on how the cameras will be operated and who will be able to access the footage.

"Will police officers be able to turn them off? At convenient times will they stop operating, or video be deleted?"

MacIsaac, whose family is fundraising to represent themselves at the upcoming coroner's inquest into her brother's death, believes the force  needs better recruitment and training to deal with people in crisis, in addition to cameras.

"It's one more level of a chance of accountability, but you have to have the right person doing the job."

Joanne MacIsaac, whose brother Michael was shot and killed by Durham police in 2013, says body-worn cameras will help police accountability but she believes much more is needed. (Provided)

About the Author

Shannon Martin

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Shannon is an award-winning reporter with CBC Toronto. She was part of the core team that launched "No Fixed Address", a hugely popular series on millenials renting and buying in Toronto. In 2016, Shannon hosted a special live broadcast on-air and on Facebook simultaneously from Toronto Pride, which won top honours in the Digital category at the RTDNA awards. Contact Shannon: shannon.martin@cbc.ca or find her on Instagram at @ShannonMartinTV.