'A view that isn't biased': Guelph police trying out body-worn cameras
Published Friday, September 4, 2020 7:22PM EDT
GUELPH -- Some Guelph police officers began using body-worn cameras this week as part of year-long pilot project aimed at increasing officer accountability.
Twenty-one officers will wear the cameras this year to determine if they effectively serve the community.
"A view that isn't biased in one way or another," said Sgt. Dustan Howe. "People's observations are sometimes tainted by their past or things that they interpret."
The project was approved in the fall of 2019. The force invested just under $50,000 in the technology and training.
"(Using) the cameras appropriately, knowing when to use them, knowing the limitations of the camera and any legal responsibilities that they have, as well as privacy implications," Sgt. Howe said of the training.
The cameras will capture video and audio. Howe said he hopes the cameras increase public confidence as calls for police accountability grow across the country.
"You get to hear what they hear and there's actually GPS on the cameras as well," Howe said.
Officers are able to turn the cameras on and off at their own discretion.
"We don't want to be recording people's private places, we don't want to be recording in places of worship or hospitals," Howe said.
Howe said there needs to be a valid reason for turning off the cameras, or officers could face repercussions.
The videos will be stored and not made available to the public.
Alana Saulnier, criminology program coordinator at Lakehead University, said body cameras may be helpful, but they're not necessarily a solution to concerns about policing.
"The fact that body-worn cameras don't necessarily have the impacts people expect them to, but if your objective is to satisfy public opinion, perhaps those impacts aren't the most important thing," Saulnier said.
Some residents told CTV News Kitchener that they like the idea, while others said they'd like the money to be donated to community organizations.
The pilot project will end next fall. The police force will then make a decision on whether or not to make the cameras a permanent piece of equipment for officers.