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Sûreté du Québec bought 169 body cameras three years ago, never used them

Body cameras purchased by SQ in 2017 sit unused
Quebec provincial police purchased 169 body cameras in 2017 with the idea of testing them out, but as Global’s Dan Spector reports, they have yet to be used.

The Sûreté du Quebec bought 169 body cameras and 33 dashboard cameras three years ago, and have yet to use them.

According to a contract document obtained by Global News, Quebec’s provincial police bought the cameras in July of 2017, along with cloud storage space to store videos and more. The total cost to taxpayers was $560,403.

In April of 2018, the SQ produced a two-day training program, including PowerPoint presentations and true or false exercises, to teach officers how to operate the cameras as part of a pilot project. The document outlines lesson plans that include how to record, how to stop recording, how to manage the videos, even how to plan court testimony. More than two years later, none of it has been put into action.

Tracy Wing, an Eastern Townships mother whose 17-year-old son Riley Fairholm was shot and killed by the SQ in 2018 while he was in a mental health crisis, expressed disbelief.

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“I’m kind of a little in shock,” she said.

READ MORE: Mother of Quebec teen shot by police presents petition for body cameras at National Assembly

A year ago, Wing brought a petition to the National Assembly demanding Quebec police officers be equipped with body cameras and dashboard cameras. She’s been seeking more accountability from police since her son was killed. She had no idea that as she was gathering over 1,500 signatures for her petition, the SQ had already purchased more than 200 cameras.

“It makes me quite outraged,” said Wing. “I’d like to know why they haven’t used them.”

Marie-Livia Beaugé, a defense lawyer and one of the organizers of Montreal’s Black Lives Matter demonstrations, also expressed shock when she found out about the unused cameras.

“They didn’t use it, so they just don’t want to get caught doing stuff that is bad,” Beaugé said.

Nakuset, the director of the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal, said she believes all police officers should wear body cameras.

“It does not surprise me that they don’t want to be accountable. It doesn’t surprise me that they don’t want people to see how they actually interact with people of color, Indigenous people,” Nakuset said.

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In a short statement, the SQ told Global News they are still in the process of “repositioning,” and in the process of “putting forward” the body camera pilot project. They did not answer questions about why the cameras have not been used.

Gregory Kelley is the MNA who brought Wing’s petition to the National Assembly last year.

“What are those cameras doing?” he wonders. “Why aren’t they being used?”

READ MORE: Thousands sign petition calling for mandatory Toronto police usage of body cameras

When asked about the unused cameras, a spokesperson for Quebec’c Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbeault pointed to the government’s planned initiatives to reform the province’s police law.

Beaugé thinks the fact the SQ can spend half a million dollars on cameras and not use them shows the province gives police forces too much money.

“Give them less money. Put the money that we put in the police on education, on transport,” Beaugé said.

The Terrebonne company that sold the cameras to the SQ in 2017 said though three-year-old body cameras are not obsolete, newer models are more advanced.

“Technology is evolving fast. They are not obsolete, but like laptops, the new cameras are quicker, and have more options and more battery,” said Jonathan Boivin, who works in business development at Cyberkar Systems.

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Montreal will be the scene of another anti-police brutality demonstration on Sunday.