News / Winnipeg

Winnipeg police board chair calls body-worn cameras necessary

Coun. Jeff Browaty says don't read too far into a projected 2023 date for the pilot, as it could happen a lot sooner.

A personal body cam is pictured here on a sales rep at Spy Tech in Toronto on July 30, 2010.

TORSTAR NEWS SERVICE

A personal body cam is pictured here on a sales rep at Spy Tech in Toronto on July 30, 2010.

The chairperson of the Winnipeg Police Board says it’s a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ officers will be outfitted with body cameras.

Coun. Jeff Browaty, who was recently appointed to the role, cautions against reading too much into a newly released timeline for a body-worn camera pilot program. According to a new report, that program should start in 2023. 

Browaty says it could happen sooner—heck, even next year if the board so chooses.

“The public now is expecting a certain level of accountability and the ability to go back and review the actions of our officers,” Browaty said on Thursday.

The board initially approved the pilot back in 2015 and inked the program into the service’s 2016 capital budget to come into effect next year.

However, a $2.45-million shortfall prompted the board to scrap the $1-million project and transfer the money from expenditures into the operating budget.

Browaty said on Thursday the board and service plans keep an eye on how body camera programs are working in other jurisdictions.

He says the '17 budget was already prepared by the time he was named chair. But he figures the body camera program was deferred by seven years due to the labour costs associated with archiving the footage.

Browaty also pointed to city's ongoing negotiations with the Winnipeg Police Association over a new collective agreement as another financial pressure.

Still, he says, the types of cameras and technology used for data storage are ever-changing and possibly becoming more affordable, which opens the door for future discussions by the board.

The police's 2017 operating and capital budgets will be presented at the board's meeting next Tuesday. 

Browaty said the service has a balanced budget.

Cornwallis police officer says body-worn cameras are important

Chief Const. Darwin Drader may be the lone member of the Rural Municipality of Cornwallis’ police department, but that hasn’t stopped him from pioneering body-worn cameras in the province.

Drader outfitted himself with a body camera back in April, which the RM council purchased for $460.

He explains that wearing a camera is a natural extension of the in-car video footage captured by his and other vehicles across North American departments. 

“It helps with convictions. It helps with a lot of things,” said Drader, an officer of 35 years.

He can turn the camera on and off himself, and mostly uses it for traffic stops and during some interviews. 

Drader says not only does the camera footage clear up any verbal interactions he has with suspects when disputes arise in court, but he recognizes the technology has the power to keep officers in check when emotions run high.

He says officers in the other departments in the province, such as Rivers and Springfield, have also approached him to inquire about the technology.

“They recognize how important it is.”

Drader believes it’s easier for smaller departments to introduce body camera programs, while it is more logistically challenging for large departments, such as those in Brandon and Winnipeg.

For example, he says policies and procedures have to be developed around how videos are stored and for officers to know how to sign the cameras in and out, among other rules.

Since he's in a department of one, Drader just uploads footage from the camera himself and stores it on his computer or burns it onto a DVD. 

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