Failing to hold law enforcement accountable for excessive force and abuses of power is a dangerous and recurrent problem in the Canadian justice system.
As an accurate account of the interactions between law enforcement officers and civilians, body-worn cameras (BWCs) ensure the quality of police services and etiquette are maintained. Investment in BWCs should be prioritized to ensure police accountability, the protection of citizens and the credibility of the justice system.
A 2016 investigative piece from the Toronto Star concluded that generally, cases of police discipline were handled in secret. Vice News (link is external)similarly conducted a months-long investigation a year prior into shootings conducted by police officers, highlighting the inconclusive and muddied statistics provided by police departments from across the country.
Whether the implementation of BWCs can work to prevent police misconduct is uncertain, but footage obtained from the cameras would serve as rock-solid evidence in trials against officers and civilians who have committed crimes against officers. They protect both parties and ensure that convictions are given in situations where all evidence is presented in the most accurate light.
BWC pilot programs have been conducted by major law enforcement departments in the past. The Ottawa Police Service and the RCMP planned to implement programs similar to those conducted by the Toronto Police Service in 2015, but with resourcing of the programs left to the responsibility of the police departments themselves, the plans were abandoned.
One story with the Amherstburg Police Service in Amherstburg, Ontario, proves that despite the costs, police departments saw BWCs as a valuable implementation. The Windsor Sun (link is external) documented Chief Tim Berthiaume’s reflection on the program, adding alongside increased transparency and accountability, he “also saw an opportunity to address training needs,” adding, “we’re good at what we do but we’re not perfect.”
Despite their country’s rocky police brutality record, the United States Department of Justice has allocated over $20 million to programs piloting body cameras, according to a 2016 press release.
With a sizably smaller police force and population, the federal and provincial governments in Canada need to put resources towards similar programs. This is an area of the justice system that can truly benefit from federal stimulation and ensure offences committed against civilians by officers are, at the very least, recorded.
In protecting citizens, law enforcement must remain transparent and accountable. BWCs present a way to do this as an investment that can benefit the community in a way that outweighs the financials costs.
Thank you for your analysis and work on this editorial Jasnit.