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Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella says the police force will implement body-worn cameras, even if it has to go through a pilot project first.
Commissioner Carole McDougall questioned why the devices wouldn’t be introduced as a pilot project as opposed to being rolled out to all uniformed officers as proposed by Halifax Regional Police at the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners meeting Monday.
“We can still do a pilot if a pilot is the wish of the board. We can scale it back to 50 cameras or 10 cameras or whatever is the will of the board,” Kinsella responded.
“The downside of that is at the end of the pilot, the recommendation will be that we get body-worn cameras here with HRP.”
Kinsella reasoned that the decision to deploy body-worn cameras throughout the force is consistent with “all police services across the county, particularly major police services such as Halifax.”
About 300 cameras would be deployed, allowing all uniformed Halifax Regional Police officers to have their own individually issued device.
Halifax Regional Police estimates the technology costs would be $795,000 for the first year, with an annual licensing and operating cost of $380,000 in the following years, totalling $3.7 million over a five-year period.
Kinsella said the devices have “a strong potential to improve transparency, civility, training opportunities, evidence and opportunities to build trust.”
But Coun. Lindell Smith, one of three Halifax regional councillors on the board, raised that research on body-worn cameras, which wasn’t included in Halifax Regional Police’s proposal, has mixed reviews — especially when it comes to racism.
“Many of the reports and scholarly papers around that speak on the fact that body-worn cameras don’t actually deal with those issues that advocates and community members are feeling when it comes to race,” Smith said.
“Some of the research even said that adding cameras just increases the perception of institutional racism because now you’re increasing more surveillance on residents, especially those who are of colour and are over monitored in general.”
Smith said the policies around body-worn cameras need to be established before the board can support it.
The cameras would be used for:— Nicole Munro (@Nicole__Munro) December 14, 2020
- Calls for service, where an officer is dispatched for a call for service and "you're getting out with the intention of engaging somebody in a conversation."
- Requesting identification
- Collecting evidence
Coun. Lisa Blackburn, also a commissioner on the board, agreed.
“To me, the rigorous policies around the use of this equipment is going to be key,” Blackburn said, acknowledging public trust has faded over the past few years.
Blackburn said she believes body-worn cameras have the potential to make a difference.
“There are two sides to every story. Cameras will provide a third perspective that has no bias and I see that as being certainly a potential help as police do their work and we do our work here on the commission,” she said.
“Cameras, I don’t think, are going to stop bad behaviour from either police or the public, but it will certainly make it easier to identify and learn from.”
The board unanimously voted to defer on Halifax Regional Police’s proposal until next month’s meeting, when the force is expected to present more research on policy framework and community impacts as requested by the board.
Chief Supt. Janis Gray, top RCMP officer in the Halifax District, said RCMP will be deploying body-worn cameras across Canada this summer, however, locally, the force is “not in a situation right now where we need them.”