OTTAWA – Mounties won’t be wearing tiny video cameras – at least for now.
The RCMP says it is postponing the deployment of body-worn cameras after testing revealed technical problems, including limited battery life and lack of durability.
Rolling out the cameras would mean purchasing thousands of units for over 750 detachments.
The national police force says that means it must have confidence in the technology and ensure the expenditure is justified.
Body-worn cameras generally clip on a uniform, or can be embedded in glasses or a helmet. They are used to gather evidence for prosecution should criminal behaviour be recorded and to bolster accountability if questions arise after an incident.
Several violent confrontations between police officers and civilians across North America have generated intense controversy and public debate in recent years.
The small video cameras are intended to openly capture an “accurate, unbiased and reliable” audio and video account of incidents from the officer’s perspective, the RCMP said in an interim summary on use of the devices, made public earlier this year.
The Mounties began exploring body-worn cameras – including privacy, legal and recording storage issues – three years ago.
RCMP detachments in Wood Buffalo, Alta., and Windsor and Indian Head, N.S., took part in tests last year. In addition, the Mounties have used the cameras at protests in New Brunswick and in Burnaby, B.C.
Evaluations were also carried out at the RCMP training facility in Regina, involving scenarios ranging from everyday interactions to use of lethal force.
In a statement Wednesday, RCMP deputy commissioner Kevin Brosseau said the RCMP would continue to buy and test new models in operational settings and to support rapid deployment as requested by divisional operations, “with the goal of eventually identifying a camera that meets our specific needs.”
The interim RCMP policy said Mounties wearing cameras must hit the record button when there is “a high likelihood” they’ll use force against someone. It said the force had taken steps to address privacy risks by:
• Telling the public when officers are wearing the cameras;
• Informing RCMP members of video policy and best practices;
• Ensuring that recordings are uploaded for secure storage, retained and routinely purged;
• Providing citizens with copies of recordings through the Access to Information and Privacy acts.
The RCMP has told the federal privacy commissioner another assessment of the technology would be undertaken and provided to the watchdog for comment in advance of any national roll-out of the cameras.