Following an inconclusive three-year pilot project, police in Edmonton are going ahead and equipping some officers with body-worn video cameras.
A review of the pilot project, which saw 56 cameras distributed to officers, failed to document any significant reduction in officers’ use of force, while police who participated in the tests expressed mixed feelings about the idea, suggesting that it interfered with their ability to behave naturally in interactions with the public and situations of conflict. Given the costs involved – not just the cameras’ $1,000 price tags but also the costs associated with managing their data – the review suggested that police put their body camera plans on hold and see how similar projects proceed in other jurisdictions.
But police administrators are going ahead with a compromise, deploying the cameras in situations deemed to pose a high risk of conflict or altercations between police and the public. In announcing the move, Deputy Chief Danielle Campbell explained that police will use the cameras when “responding to calls where they’re going to find people committing an offence,” adding that “the value of collecting that evidence when they find people committing the offence will be hugely beneficially legally for the court system.”
As other cities also consider the deployment of such technology, Edmonton’s continuing experiment could provide a valuable case study in its efficacy. It may also prove salient in how privacy concerns are negotiated, given how biometric identification technologies are also on the rise in government security applications, and could easily be integrated into such a system for monitoring and surveillance of the public. Many privacy and civil rights advocates are already concerned about such a scenario, and will be closely watching how these initial steps in that direction manage to balance such issues against police interests.
Source: Edmonton Journal