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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  1. Ryan posted on 05/31/2013 08:55 AM
    "Officers who have used the cameras say just knowing that the camera is on often defuses what could become a tense situation." - Which is why they wont turn them on until AFTER they've instigated you.
    People have cameras too, the only difference is that cops usually tell them to put them away.
    1. George73 posted on 05/31/2013 02:39 PM
      @Ryan Maybe the cops should keep the cameras on for the entire duration of their shift. With remote technology the video and audio feeds could be relayed to a central server rather than the officer having to carry a data storage pack. Access to these data would then only be possible following an incident that required investigation. This would pre-empt the obvious union complaints that it would be an invasion of the officer's privacy to have to have the camera on all the time.
    2. billythekid posted on 06/07/2013 11:08 PM
      @Ryan Thankfully, you are not required by any law to put the camera away. It is entirely legal to film an on or off duty police officer questioning, or detaining you. It is also legal to film a traffic stop, and TSA checkpoints (It IS however illegal to film screens or documents of the TSA).

      The more you know.
  2. Joe posted on 05/31/2013 12:33 PM
    Waste of money. As Ryan said they will just turn them off when is time to take care of business. Better still have cops stop investigating cops, and when they have done something that warrants investigation do not wait until the cops have time to get their stories straight, interview them right away not a week later.
  3. haig terzian posted on 05/31/2013 02:32 PM
    I am all for using a camera, it is fair to all parties.

    However this is only true if the camera is also used to document the infraction and not only to document the interaction between the officer and the citizen.
  4. al posted on 06/03/2013 06:12 AM
    We can catch them sleeping or slacking on the job.. This camera will pay for itself.. Keep it on for the entire shift.
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