November 26, 2015 11:25 am

RCMP back to the drawing board on body-worn cameras

On May 18, 2015, the Toronto Police Service began a pilot project to evaluate the use of body-worn cameras.

Toronto Police Service/File
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Canada’s national police force is going back to the drawing board in its attempt to identify a portable video camera that can be worn by officers from coast to coast.

The RCMP issued a request for information from suppliers on Thursday via the government of Canada’s procurement website, specifically asking private companies that specialize in camera technology to help the force answer some key questions. Among them:

  • How can you meet battery life of twelve hours with current or upcoming technology?
  • What is the ability for audio recording on your camera?
  • Does your camera’s minimum working temperature meet -20 to +30 degrees Celsius?
  • What mounting options for the camera can you provide?

According to the document detailing the request for information (which will not result in a formal contract but is simply seeking answers from various suppliers), the RCMP recently conducted several pilot projects across the country to test various camera models that can be mounted on an officer’s vest.

“Our objective is to provide front-line officers with tools that are consistent with global changes in technology to enhance both public and officer safety,” the document reads.

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“To date, no camera has been identified that meets all of the RCMP’s needs. The cameras that have been researched and tested have issues with battery life and durability. Additionally, the cameras do not always adequately capture the incident due to mounting difficulties.”

Body-worn video cameras have, in other jurisdictions in the United States and elsewhere, been proven to help limit the number of complaints involving police brutality and significantly reduced officers’ use of force.

A pilot project was launched for Toronto’s municipal police force this year, and Quebec is also examining the possibility of equipping its provincial force, the Sûreté du Québec, with body-worn cameras following several high-profile incidents involving the deaths of suspects at the hands of law enforcement.

READ MORE: Toronto police board chair to urge expanded use of body-worn cameras

Three RCMP detachments across the country were involved in the initial feasibility study for the cameras this past summer. According to one of those – the Wood Buffalo RCMP detachment in Alberta – cameras were to be issued to twelve officers for four months.

“The officers have received training in the operation and maintenance of the cameras,” the detachment said in a release issued once the pilot project launched.

“There are also protocols in place to govern the storage and retention of any digital video data collected. The protocols are based on guidance provided to police agencies from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada related to the proper storage and documentation of (body-worn) camera footage.”

Privacy issues are at the heart of many concerns over the use of such cameras. Canada’s privacy commissioners flagged a host of issues related to body cameras in a recent report.

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