We applaud the RCMP for field-testing body cameras ahead of the national rollout which is more than a year away.
For many people, it’s overdue.
While American law enforcement agencies are no stranger to this technology, Canada has fallen a little behind and needs to catch up.
There’s no doubt that body-worn cameras are integral to enhancing public trust and accountability with the police, some of whom have brought disrepute to their profession, which has unfortunately tarnished the reputation of the majority.
It seems there is a cell phone on every corner waiting to record everybody’s actions, especially those of the police, almost with the hope of catching them being overzealous or using excessive force so they can post to social media.
Body cameras have many advantages in law enforcement. They not only record important evidence, but they keep officers on the straight and narrow when they interact with the public during conflicts.
Don’t forget, every tense situation could be an officer’s last. This has sadly been proven by the deaths of several police officers in Canada over the past year. These men and women never know if they will return to their families at the end of a shift. They could walk into an ambush, respond to a deadly domestic call, or end up at the end of a knife during a mental wellness check. During these unpredictable crises, officers are pumped with adrenaline and must be prepared to act within seconds to save someone’s life or their own.
This is where body cameras can be very helpful. They certainly could have shed more light on the tragic deaths of those officers. Three were “ambushed” in Ontario last week, with one sergeant being killed by gunfire. And in Burnaby last October, Cst. Shaelyn Yang died of stab wounds after checking on a homeless man in a tent.
In another Ontario case, prosecutors plan to use body camera evidence in the trial of two people accused in the death of rookie officer Cst. Greg Pierzchala, 28. He was gunned down when he checked on a vehicle in a ditch. That video footage could be the Crown’s best compelling evidence in the case.
We need to reiterate that body cameras are an essential tool to keep law enforcement officers on their best behaviour. Whether it’s excessive use of force or unconscious racism or bias, a body camera will tell all like a reliable witness.
Implementing body cameras as a regular part of the uniform is a step in the right direction. They offer a transparency that didn’t really exist before; a window that definitely needed cleaning.
Lyonel Doherty, Editor