On May 15, 2015 there was a new addition to some Toronto Police Services uniforms, a body-worn camera. This pilot project will include100 officers and be implemented over the course of a year. These cameras are to be activated when an officer is responding to a call or investigating a person while on duty. There will be four particular groups wearing these cameras including: the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy Rapid Response Teams, 43 Division Community Response Unit, 55 Division Primary Response Unit and the Traffic Services Motor Squad.
What do you need to know?
Police officers wearing body cameras are to inform the public of the camera “as soon as reasonably possible”. Officers will use their cameras during calls for services, investigative detention, apprehension under the Mental Health Act, active criminals, public disorder problems, crimes in progress, arrests and interactions with individuals in crisis. What about your home?
These officers have been trained in respect to privacy and human rights concerns. Accordingly, officers wearing body cameras are to ask for consent to turn on the camera when in a home or business setting. However, officers do not require your consent in your home or business if they are carrying out a search warrant or under pressing circumstances. On the other hand, officers do not need your consent to use the body-worn camera in public settings such as parks, the streets and malls.
The body-worn cameras are meant to be treated as an aid to officers. Since cameras are limited in their ability, for instance their ability to pick up on smell or to monitor the body language of the officer wearing the camera, officers must continue to use their memo books and are required to speak into the camera and describe what they are doing as the camera may not record all of their actions. Officers will continue to utilize their skill sets, abilities and legal knowledge in cases to assess how to proceed with a legal matter.
The main concern for both citizens and officers is privacy. Citizens are concerned about privacy violations in delicate situations where they do not want to be recorded such as young offender matters and conversations with victims of domestic abuse. Citizens have also expressed concerns about access to the videos when they’re involved in the matter.
Moreover, citizens express concern about officers controlling when the cameras can be turned off. Some citizens have argued that the cameras should remain on at all times. However, this is a violation of the officers’ privacy rights as cameras would then record the officer’s conversations with colleagues and even washroom breaks. Although the cameras aim to provide transparency, it is crucial to ensure that neither party’s privacy rights are violated.
Finally, since this is a pilot project there isn’t much regulation to assist police service and law enforcement groups to help ensure everyone’s privacy rights are upheld. As this program moves forward there will be new legislation based on the circumstances, challenges and developments that come along with its existence. The goal is to provide transparency to citizens and law enforcement in situations which can become complicated and questionable without suitable evidence. Many police officers have suggested that this is the future of police work.
Points of discussion:
1. Do you believe using body-worn cameras will be helpful in providing transparency in the court of law?
2. Do you think this body-work cameras are the future of police work?
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