Edmonton police to wear cameras as part of pilot project
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Starting Wednesday, when Edmonton police officers take to the streets they will do so with cameras attached.
As part of a pilot project, officers will hit the streets with small personal cameras aimed at capturing all of their investigations and interactions during the day.
The year-long pilot is meant to see how well the cameras work in Edmonton’s weather, how good the video quality is and whether officers find them useful.
“We are looking at all aspects of that technology to see if it holds some value for police work,” said EPS Supt. Ed Keller. “We need to make sure we are getting our value for it.”
While used in the United Kingdom and in some communities in the United States, EPS researcher Dr. Mary Stratton said there has never been a widespread look at camera use.
“There hasn’t been a professionally designed systematic assessment for the length of time that this one will look at the cameras,” she said. “The research is very limited. That's why we are doing the study.”
Keller said officers are expected to turn on the cameras anytime they are investigating a specific incident and anytime it is safe to do so, but an officer’s notes and their recollections will still be important.
“There may be something that isn’t picked up and it's still going to come down to the officer’s recollection,” he said. “This is just another tool that will be able to assist us.”
Edmonton Police Association president Sgt. Tony Simioni said front-line officers welcome the pilot.
“In 99.9 per cent of occasions it is going to exonerate our officers from specious complaints,” he said.
Simioni said the only concern was the cost and where the money would come from.
“If we keep chipping away at these exercises in transparency at the expense of crime-fighting, we have a problem with that. But in terms of the overall concept of body-worn video, we are all behind it.”
Eyes on the street
- About 20 cameras will hit the streets with officers in the downtown division, who will wear them over the next year.
- The cameras are designed to be visible and officers will tell people that the units are recording.
- The pilot project is set to run until next fall, but even if successful there is no guarantee the cameras will be more widely used.
- The total cost of the project is $465,000 spread over three years, which includes the early work, this year’s pilot and an evaluation of the work.