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Police Body cam report recommends trial run

A report to the Hamilton Police Services Board says a full roll out of body cameras would cost about a million dollars a year over five years. The staff report compared the experience of 13 police forces who have either implemented body cams or have at least explored the technology. While several large cities in Canada have adopted the technology, there does not appear to have been an in-depth analysis so far of the success of the program. However, the study authors acknowledge that public demand for the body cams may outweigh practical and technical concerns about the effectiveness of the cameras.

“In answer to calls from the public, policing in Ontario has begun the shift to deploying BWCs to their frontline officers. For the Hamilton Police Service, deployment must be considered in terms of goals for the technology. While transparency is an obvious goal for deployment, there are some limitations concerning it. It is hoped, however, that use of BWCs could assist in rebuilding a strained relationship with the community, as well as identify efficiencies for frontline officers.”

The report recommends a 14-month pilot program involving 100 cameras at a cost of $250,000. It also suggests there will need to be education for Crown Attorneys into what can be expected of the new evidence source and how to access it. “From there, a media rollout would allow education of the public in regard of what to expect when interacting with a member of the Service who is using a camera, in addition to how the video would be used and how their privacy is protected.” With Canada’s stricter privacy legislation, it is unlikely the public would routinely see body cam images in their nightly news as is the case in the US.

A full deployment of body cams would see 610 units purchased. There would also be a staffing cost, mostly civilian, of approximately $500,000 for the pilot project for the collection and evaluation of the images and the way they are deployed.

The report concludes:

With recent events and challenges faced by policing across the world, there has been a renewed call for law enforcement to consider the deployment of Body-Worn Cameras to their front-line officers. The fundamental question of the effectiveness of BWCs remains unclear and the reviews are mixed. In order to address these concerns, consideration of a BWC pilot program should be made prior to any decision on whether or not to move forward with full camera deployment. A pilot program for the HPS would allow a complete understanding of the true impact on the Service, as well as the community

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