Halifax police chief says body cameras could improve community relations as decision deferred

Click to play video: 'Halifax police to equip officers with body cameras'
Halifax police to equip officers with body cameras
WATCH: Halifax police chief says body cameras could improve community relations – Dec 14, 2020

Halifax police chief Dan Kinsella told the police board of commissioners there’s evidence that police-worn body cameras can help improve the quality of interactions between police and civilians.

Kinsella and Insp. Greg Robertson delivered the online presentation to the board, detailing the five-year plan for the deployment of body-worn video cameras to its front-line officers.

It was back in July when the board requested a report brought forward on the use of body cameras for Halifax Regional Police and Halifax District RCMP patrol officers.

Kinsella said the technology would also enhance transparency and assist the police in gathering evidence, adding it could be especially important in providing context in police interactions with the public, especially during use of force or when related to mental health calls.

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“The vast majority of police organizations are going right to deployment if they are going to body-worn cameras and so it is a best practice,” said Kinsella.

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“The majority of police services that did run a pilot project are in full deployment right now.”

In Nova Scotia, the Kentville police department was the first to employ the use of body cameras, after a successful pilot project in 2015.

Police in Truro became the second jurisdiction to utilize the technology this year.

Click to play video: 'Over 70,000 people sign petition for body cameras in Halifax police'
Over 70,000 people sign petition for body cameras in Halifax police

According to the Halifax Regional Police five-year timeline, Kinsella expects the traffic unit to be outfitted with body cameras first, sometime in the fall, with additional patrol officers coming on board in the subsequent years.

But the police board of commissioners weren’t ready just to approve the body camera plan just yet.

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Several board members, including councillor Lisa Blackburn, said they want to see more clarity around the procedures and policy, especially how it relates to issues of race and community outreach.

“There’s no doubt about it there’s been an erosion of public trust in the last few years and I think this tool can help to improve public trust and act as a deterrent,” said Blackburn. “But again it’s going to require rigorous policy and require a managing of expectations.”

The board voted unanimously to defer the motion and body camera plan until further discussion could be had, pending more information regarding policy and police practice.

The five-year body camera proposal comes with a $3.7 million price tag.

It’s’s estimated the annual operating cost of using the camera technology would be close to $380,000 three hundred and another $307,000 to support additional staffing.

Halifax police say four jobs would be created to manage the new tool, which includes technical support and officer training, along with a clerk to manage the files and support freedom-of-information requests, said Kinsella.

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