Police body cams may help with accountability but not prevent violence, B.C. critics caution
Some legal advocates are questioning the effectiveness of police-worn body cameras as the RCMP plans to roll out the technology across the country.
Local police departments, like the one in Saanich, B.C., are also considering using body cameras.
"It can obviously, perhaps, curtail certain behaviours that would not be accepted by the public," said Saanich police Sgt. Steve Eassie.
"It could also help us in resolving public complaint issues that come forward that are not completely forthcoming," he said.
Advocacy group Pivot Legal Society says that while body cams could help improve accountability, it's not clear if they will help prevent police violence.
"It's not this overarching solution to the issues of brutality and harm, which are systematic," said Meenkashi Mannoe, a policing campaigner with Pivot Legal Society.
In the recent killing of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, body-worn cameras recorded police beating him, but did nothing to stop it from happening.
"We're not getting at the root causes of those issues," said Mannoe.
The B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police says body cams could be a tool to help rebuild waning trust in the system.
"Hopefully it creates a safer environment for everyone that's involved," said Delta police deputy Chief Harj Sidhu.
To mitigate privacy concerns, Sidhu says the cameras won't roll constantly. He says officers will be trained to hit record at traffic stops and at mental health calls, for example.
"Will there be the odd occasion where we miss something? Yes, that's true," he said. "But we'll try to mitigate that as best we can."
Pivot hopes it's clear that the videos will remain impartial.
"The police cannot and should not have control over the footage," said Mannoe.
Police will be able to access the videos, as they could be used in their investigations, but provincial rules say that videos cannot be altered in any way and that there must be an automatic record of who has accessed them.
"That really provides a framework as to how we deploy body-worn cameras in the province," said Sidhu.
While work is underway to bring the cameras to B.C., there's no firm timeline yet for when the system will launch.
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