Montreal police (SPVM) are questioning whether body cameras will actually reduce the use of force, following a pilot project done on the use of body cams.
The police department presented the results of its report to the City of Montreal’s Public Security Commission Friday morning.
The department equipped 78 officers with body cameras over a seven-month period in 2017. The report indicates body cameras didn’t necessarily reduce the use of force.
Over the course of the pilot project, force was used 19 times. Of those incidents, the camera was only turned on 13 times and eight incidents of force were captured. Police didn’t turn on the camera six times, a few times because they were too preoccupied with what they were doing.
Police admit the system isn’t perfect. Questions of privacy abound when police are dealing with crowds or domestic violence situations. Also, officers have to physically turn on the cameras when they feel the incident warrants it.
“From the moment we have to turn off the camera of course people will question why we had to turn it off,” said police spokesman André Durocher.
In the pilot project, officers didn’t turn the cameras on a few times in stressful situations.
It has the city questioning if it’s worth it.
“When you consider you are talking tens of millions of dollars per year, hundreds of millions of dollars per decade and you would only end up with fragmentary video evidence, I think you have to question the cost-benefit ratio involved,” said Alex Norris, Projet Montreal’s head of Public Security Commission.
But community groups who work with racial profiling and police brutality victims argue body cams are vital.
They point to other Canadian cities like Fredericton and Calgary which are using cop cameras.
WATCH: Deadly shooting illustrates benefits of police body cameras
They say the value should outweigh the cost.
“I think in the long term, it will increase accountability and transparency and trust and I think it will lead to changed behaviours on both sides — citizens and police — because they know they are being recorded,” said Fo Niemi, president of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR).
The SPVM says the decision is now up to the city as to what to do next.
“I am not sure cameras are the answer but if people are saying we want cameras because we feel safe or to address racial and social profiling, then we need to hear that,” said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.
But the report concludes many officers view body cams as a lack of trust, and they worry videos could be used against them.