The Plante administration faced more pressure to get Montreal police equipped with body cameras on Tuesday, and delayed the adoption of a motion requesting them.
During their monthly city council meeting, opposition politicians demanded officers be equipped with cameras immediately.
“These cameras need to be implemented in the shortest delay,” said Ensemble Montreal councillor Abdelhaq Sari, as he presented a motion demanding the city of Montreal implement police body cameras as soon as possible.
“There is a problem of confidence in the police,” he said, adding that young people have little trust in them.
Sari cited the recent wrongful arrest of Mamadi Camara.
In recent weeks, Camara was accused of shooting at a police officer, jailed for six days, then released, exonerated and apologized to by the police.
“Would it be the same situation if there was a camera on the police officer? I think not,” said Cedric Materne, a lawyer with Riendeau Avocats who represented Camara. Materne said he supports the idea of police wearing body cameras.
At council, Sari said the Plante administration has vastly overestimated the costs of body cameras.
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A 2019 report on a body camera pilot project in 2016 and 2017 estimated it would cost $17 million to implement cameras, and $24 million per year to manage them after that.
Axon, the company that provided the cameras for Montreal’s pilot project, told Global News the cost would be significantly lower.
“A lot of the costing that people were concerned about five or six years ago was based on technology that was older,” explained Vishal Dhir, Axon Managing Director of Canada.
Toronto just announced all its 2,350 front line officers will be equipped with Axon body cameras by the end of October. According to Dhir, the total cost to Toronto will be $5 million per year.
“They signed a contract with us for over five years for $25 million with all the bells and whistles,” said Dhir.
The City of Montreal has also expressed concerns about how body cam footage will be transmitted to the courts. Executive Committee member responsible for the police, Caroline Bourgeois, wondered how the process would work in response to a citizen question about body cameras earlier in the council meeting.
“Police agencies are able to share to the Crown and seamlessly within seconds,” said Dhir, who explained that a cloud storage solution linked police and officers of the court is part of what Axon sells.
After Sari mentioned several reasons the administration should implement body cameras, the ruling Projet Montreal party voted to delay debate on the issue until next month’s council meeting. Sari called the delay “unacceptable” on Twitter.
The administration said it agreed with many of Sari’s conclusions, but needed more time to discuss the matter.
Etienne Charbonneau, Canada Research Chair in Comparative Public Management at Montreal’s École nationale d’administration publique, argues that body cameras would not bring significant benefits to the city.
“Our police department, they’re mostly mostly trusted by the population. They don’t use excessive use of force very often,” Charbonneau said in an interview. “The possible payoffs probably are not there because of where we’re starting with in terms of trust, use of force, complaints, shootings. This is not the kind of city where you would expect benefits from this technology.”
The Montreal Police Brotherhood told Global News they are favourable to the implementation of body cameras, and have been for over a decade.