Cops with cameras: the good and the bad

Posted By: Andrew Peplowski · 5/31/2013 11:18:00 AM

The Montreal Policemen's Brotherhood is proposing that officers be equipped with uniform-mounted cameras that can be used to video-tape various interventions.

The union says in other jurisdictions where police officers are equipped with  point-of-view cameras, the use of force by officers and assaults on officers drops by as much as 60%.

One system is currently being tested in Edmonton.

Small video cameras are mounted just below the shoulder.

They are not on all the time, but must be activated and police  have to tell the person they are dealing with that they are being videotaped.

Officers who have used the cameras say just knowing that the camera is on often defuses what could become a tense situation.

Fo Niemi is the executive director of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations. He also believes the cameras could help to defuse a tense situation.

"Camera monitoring whether it's on an uniform, on a street, or in a cop car, would certainly make everyone more cautious," he says. 

However, there is the bad side too. Niemi says there are many privacy and civil rights issues to consider.

"For example, when an officer makes an intervention, when does he or she turn on the camera, when does he or she turn off the camera, what is the camera capturing?"

Not to mention the legal questions that may also arise from this.

"Whether the camera and the footage can be used, and to what extent can it be used in case of a lawsuit?"  

Police management say the idea is interesting and may be worth further discussion, but no pilot project is planned for now. 

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