One of the personally worn video camera that is being tested by the Edmonton Police Service (EPS).
Credits: TOM BRAID/QMI AGENCY
Citizens expressed concerns over police maintaining control of the video tape and how it would be used. Others were troubled by the police's ability to turn on the cameras at flattering times and turn them off at their own discretion.
Now, Edmonton police will be putting the technology to the test with 20 body-mounted cameras to be worn and tested by officers throughout the next year.
Alberta's privacy commissioner said it was notified by police about the pilot project, but it's too soon to tell whether it will raise any privacy concerns.
Linda McKay, executive director of the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre, foresees the same concerns that were raised in Victoria.
"In the fairness of the public, the police officer should not be able to have full control of the video so they can turn it off when they want to or erase the tapes," said McKay. "It has to either run all the time or it doesn't run at all."
From July 1, 2009 to Oct. 30, 2009, the Victoria Police Department tested two kinds of recording equipment. Officers assigned to either foot or bicycle patrols were responsible for testing the four sets of BMV equipment, sometimes referred to as head cameras. Video cameras were installed in three police cars and one police motorcycle.
According to a report by the police department on the study, once a recording was made it was downloaded to a server in a format that prevented it from being modified or deleted. Some of the recordings formed part of the evidence submitted to Crown counsel for charge approval. A total of 39 reports were submitted to the Crown during the testing period.
The study found the use of BMV reduces officer complaints significantly, increases guilty pleas in court and documents the conduct of the police officer and the public in a manner that surpasses the quality of later court testimony based on officer note taking. The cost, however, played a significant factor in the decision to pass on the technology at this time.
Edmonton lawyer Tom Engel, chairman of the Criminal Trial Lawyer's Association policing committee, welcomes the technology with open arms.
He said the association has been lobbying city police for years to adopt the technology, along with video cameras in police cars like that ones used by the RCMP.
"It's going to save all sorts of costs and delays in the criminal justice system because prosecutors and defence lawyers and judges will have that independent record. It will probably result in more guilty pleas and more charges being withdrawn," said Engel, who doesn't see any problems with police turning the video off and on themselves as long as they have strict policies in place like the RCMP.
"If the officer chooses not to use it, that officer is going to have a problem."