The Current

Canadians trust police despite questionable behaviour caught on video

A video changed the story of the killing of Walter Scott, a black man gunned down by a white police officer... all caught on tape. In our own country, videos taken by civilian bystanders have changed the narrative in more than one death at the hands of police. But have they changed the public perception?
A white South Carolina police officer Scott Walker was arrested and charged with murder on Tuesday after a video showed him shooting eight times at the back of a 50-year-old black man who was running away after a traffic stop and died at the scene.

A cellphone video from this past Saturday morning, in South Carolina, is infamous now: A white police officer opens fire on a black man, who had turned, to run away. The dead man couldn't tell his story, but that video has — and the officer who fired has been charged with murder.

It's just the latest example of questionable police behaviour caught on tape, and posted for all to see. And we've had our fair share here in Canada too.

Canadian confidence in police dropped in 2012 when the the Robert Dziekanski tasering video emerged but has rebounded back in 2014. (The Canadian Press)

In the age of YouTube, citizen videos of suspect police behaviour could be a viral category of their own. And every time it happens, it seems like another black eye on the reputation of the men and women in blue.

But today we're asking what kind of affect these videos really have on public trust in the police in Canada.

Shachi Kurl is the Sr. Vice-President at the Angus Reid Institute who has surveyed Canadians' confidence in police. She was in Vancouver.

A viral video of police behaving improperly can certainly have an outsized impact in the days and weeks that it's at the centre of attention. For a sense of how these incidents affect police relations over the long term, we reached Mike McCormack. He's president of the Toronto Police Association, a labour association representing police.

Of course, Canadians' relationships with their police forces are complicated, and that's reflected as you delve deeper into the way different people feel about the police. According to Scot Wortley, perceptions tend to break down especially along racial and socio-economic lines.

Scot Wortley is an associate professor at the University of Toronto Centre for Criminology and Socio-legal Studies. 

This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry and Sarah Grant.