News / Vancouver

B.C. should ‘aggressively pursue’ body-worn cameras for police: Special committee

An all-party special committee made up of MLAs recommends British Columbia “aggressively pursue” body-worn cameras for police officers.

The recommendation stems from a review of the Independent Investigations Office released Monday afternoon.

In the report, the committee says equipping police in the province with cameras is “a really practical suggestion” that would assist the civilian-led police watchdog (established in 2011 to investigate incidents of serious harm and death involving police) with its investigations.

“Members concluded by strongly supporting the use of body-worn cameras in B.C., and calling on government in the consultation with police and non-police stakeholders to aggressively pursue the steps necessary to implement the use of body-worn cameras by B.C. police members,” the report reads.

The report, authored by eight MLAs, says other jurisdictions have successfully outfitted their officers with cameras and that doing so in B.C. is “feasible and would benefit law enforcement and citizens alike.”

Vancouver police have already experimented with body-worn cameras.

Several officers were equipped with consumer-bought cameras in October while police enforced an injunction order to clear the homeless camp at Oppenheimer Park.

Police in Edmonton and Calgary have already trialed body-worn cameras, as has the RCMP.

Hundreds of officers in Toronto will be next to test the devices in May.

However, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association is warning against an aggressive approach to implement the technology due to outstanding safety and privacy concerns.

“People start with the perception that video adds so much to the accountability of police,” said BCCLA policy director Micheal Vonn. “And it has certainly helped. Start with [Robert] Dziekanski and go from there. But what happens is there are a lot of questions that come into play and it becomes quite difficult for anyone to create an actual policy.”

Guidelines set out by federal and provincial privacy commissioners last week also caution policy makers to take a slow, thoughtful and deliberate approach when it comes to body-worn cameras.

A statement from the Ministry of Justice provided to Metro says the government will “take the time necessary” to consider the special committee report’s recommendations and implications.

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