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Hamilton police suggest pilot project before decision on body cams: report

A Newark police officer displays how a body cam is worn during a news conference unveiling new cameras at the Panasonic headquarters in Newark, N.J. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Julio Cortez

A Hamilton police report is suggesting the roll-out of a body-worn camera (BWC) pilot project should the city opt to move forward with outfitting officers with the technology.

A BWC steering committee, consisting of four Hamilton Police Service (HPS) officers, says the effectiveness of the cameras is still “unclear and the reviews are mixed” and suggests a 14-month pilot with 100 cameras at a cost of about $250,000.

Read more: Toronto police officers begin wearing body cameras as start of year-long rollout

“A pilot project for the HPS would allow a complete understanding of the true impact on the service, ” the report said.

“It would also allow a complete understanding of goals for the technology in a Hamilton context and assist with providing contextual data for a final decision on deployment.”

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The report begins with a summary of how the HPS got to a discussion about the potential purchase of BWCs, saying there was “renewed interest” from the community on the adoption of the technology.

Read more: Police in St. Thomas, Ont., to move forward with body camera pilot project

The steering committee goes on to say that despite the push from the community, “academics” continue to question the practice.

“Academics have begun to argue that no definitive answer regarding the effectiveness of BWC deployment will ever be discerned,” said the report.

Summaries from 14 Canadian communities that either adopted or tested BWCs outline “pros and cons” of the deployment – including the Toronto Police Service pilot project in 2014, which eventually led to the service adopting the practice for 2021.

Should the HPS decide to go forward with the program, the report recommends the purchase of 610 cameras with a deployment cost of about $5 million over five years.

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The report is expected to be presented at the Hamilton police board services meeting on Thursday.

Defunding Hamilton police means ‘increased’ workloads and response times, suggests chief 

Chief Eric Girt says any “defunding” of the Hamilton Police Service (HPS) would have a “significant impact” on front-line services.

On Thursday, Girt will present a brief report to the police service board suggesting that a 20 per cent budget reduction would result in a “decrease in service delivery.”

“These reductions would result in increased response times, decreased visibility in the community, a decrease in self-initiated policing and a decrease in service delivery,” Girt says in the report.

Read more: Hamilton to consider calls to defund police despite skepticism from board

The summary is in response to a motion from a June 11 board meeting that requested a study on the implications of a proposed 20 per cent cut to the police budget tied to local protests in connection with the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

City councillor and police services board member Chad Collins said the move was in response to the city’s inbox being “inundated” by emails from a number of Hamiltonians asking for the redirection of funds to social programs.

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A 20 per cent cut would equate to about a $34-million reduction in the city’s current policing budget of $171 million, according to the board.

Read more: ‘Defund the police’ rallies held across Canada; protesters topple John A. Macdonald statue

Girt’s report says that would result in the loss of about 279 officers, since 90 percent of the police budget is comprised of employee salaries and benefits.

He also suggested the reduction would negatively affect the city’s obligations to Ontario’s Police Services Act, which requires “adequate and effective” service in core areas including crime prevention, victim assistance and emergency response services.