Body cameras, a must?

Body cameras a must?


On June 27, in the city of Akron, Ohio, the police shot a 25-year-old black boy, Jayland Walker, during a traffic stop. 

Despite the police asking him to get out of his vehicle with his hands in the air, Walker refuses to comply and ends up riddled with bullets, potentially up to 60 projectiles, as he tries to get away. escape. A weapon was found in the vehicle. 

Where did all this information come from? From a video released by the Akron police taken by the officers' portable cameras. 

In the United States, around 60% of municipal and local police forces had portable cameras in 2016. Several cities around the world, notably New York and London, have equipped their police officers with these cameras. In Canada, this technology is much less established. 

As of 2009, a few pilot projects have been deployed, notably in Montreal and in certain RCMs. However, only the cities of Calgary and Toronto are implementing it throughout their territories. 

However, several studies on citizen perception show that more than 80% of Canadians are in favor of wearing portable cameras. They see it as a tool that can promote transparency and accountability. The police also agree with this idea, since the cameras can shed light on events beyond the sensationalism of social networks. 

Researchers disagree

Canadian and American studies on the effects of portable cameras on police work, the relationship with citizens and legal proceedings are mixed. Some report that the cameras could contribute to greater professionalism and restraint in the use of force, and even reduce processing times in ethics and before the courts. 

On the other hand, others do not report significant changes in the behavior of police officers and instead note negative repercussions, in particular greater difficulty in establishing relations with citizens. 

The debate remains whole, but one fact remains: there is little Canadian research. We cannot therefore reject this technology out of hand, since there is still a lack of data to shed light on its effects. 

A national vision 

In the face of scientific procrastination, let us trust the citizens. 

The mere presence of cameras seems to positively influence their perception of the police, particularly with regard to transparency and accountability. Knowing that the effectiveness and legitimacy of the police institution are based on popular perception, should we not follow suit in Toronto?

It is true that the installation of cameras must necessarily be accompanied by clear guidelines for use, storage and disclosure. 

This responsibility should not be left to municipalities at the risk of ending up with disparities in practice, as is currently the case with graffiti removal and rat management. 

The Government of Quebec should instead take the lead and introduce guidelines based on best practices and science. 

Body cameras, a must?