Politics

RCMP decides not to outfit officers with body-worn cameras

The RCMP has decided not to issue body-worn cameras to general duty members. In a force-wide memo to staff that was obtained by CBC News, Deputy Commissioner Kevin Brosseau said the current technology isn't durable enough and its batteries don't last long enough.

Mounties say 'limited battery life and lack of camera durability' behind decision

RCMP tested body-worn cameras like this one, but the force ultimately decided not to buy them for front-line members, at least for now. (CBC)

The RCMP has decided not to issue body-worn cameras to its general duty officers.

In a force-wide memo to staff that was obtained by CBC News, Deputy Commissioner Kevin Brosseau said the current technology isn't durable enough and its batteries don't last long enough.

"The potential implementation of BWC [body-worn cameras] would require that the RCMP purchase thousands of units to be distributed in over 750 detachments,"  said Brosseau. "The RCMP needs to have confidence in the product and ensure that the choice of technology justifies the investment at this time."

He added that in the meantime, the RCMP will continue to buy and test new models, "with the goal of eventually identifying a camera that meets our specific needs."

The memo also mentions that Brosseau recently issued a communiqué to members working in criminal operations that told them not to use their own personal cameras on the job.

Privacy vs. transparency

Body-worn cameras present other problems for police, such as how to store and manage recordings for long periods of time. The cameras, either clipped onto a member's uniform or embedded in a helmet or glasses, also raise privacy and legal issues.

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson launched a pilot project to determine the feasibility of body-worn cameras in October 2013. The force website states the cameras were "intended to overtly capture an accurate, unbiased and reliable audio/video account of incidents involving uniformed RCMP members. The intention is to enhance transparency and accountability if questions/concerns/accusations arise after an incident, and to provide evidence for prosecution should an incident constitute a crime."

An interim policy developed after that pilot project instructed members to press record "only when there is a high likelihood of use of force being applied to a subject," and to inform the public that they are being recorded where it is tactically feasible.

Earlier this fall, Toronto police sought permission to start buying body-worn cameras for all its officers. In its pilot project, the police service found high levels of support for the cameras from the public and police officers.

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