During the June 2020 Peel Police Services Board meeting, it was announced that they could now get to the next step and submit a detailed plan outlining how they would implement officer body-worn cameras (BWC) across the force.
Following the several high profile interactions between police and members of the public that has left some dead including the killing of Ejaz Choudry in Mississauga and D’Andre Campbell in Brampton there is a push to ensure all officers capture their interactions with the public on body cam. This is seen as a way to hold police accountable.
However, it was puzzling to see up to 200 deputation requests that were sent by residents who opposed body cameras.
“Every one of the deputations we have received, 100 per cent of those depositions is opposed to having body-worn cameras and I don’t understand that,” said board member Alan Boughton.
According to reports, those opposed to body cameras say they aren’t a solution because they can be turned off by police officers and don’t
reform or improve our police department.
Peel Regional Chief Nishan Duraiappah suggested having video footage of police interaction with the public would increase accountability.
“This is not the panacea, but it is the means to an end,” he said.
He also noted it could assist the province’s police watchdog, the Special Investigation Unit (SIU), in its work when someone is killed or seriously injured during an interaction with officers.
“Our job and the job of the SIU is to obtain the facts to inform a decision. Having video is key to accelerate that,” Duraiappah said. “If you add it to the totality of evidence you could provide, it expedites the investigation process.”
If the $1.4-million plan is passed (which has already been budgeted for and would not impact this year’s police budget), Peel could see the use of police body-worn cameras, supplied by Axon, as early as winter 2020.
According to the 2019 study published in The American Society of Criminology, body-worn cameras did not lead to de-policing and they did not seem to “discourage police contacts or officer-initiated activities.” Overall, the study concluded that BWCs did not produce dramatic changes in police behaviour.
It is unclear whether PRP would allow the community access to the footage — although it was confirmed that any footage captured by BWCs would be owned by police, not camera supplier Axon.
Body cameras worn by police officers won’t solve the more complex issues involving policing but it will provide clarity when officers find themselves in tricky situations that require them to draw weapons.