Altona police officers are wearing a new piece of equipment: body cameras.
Altona Police Chief Perry Batchelor says he first began looking at the idea in 2017 after a webinar with Visual Labs Inc.
The United States company provides an app for officers to use on android cell phones.
Altona officers officially started using the app in January.
“Something that investigators will always look for is video,” Batchelor says.
“Video evidence is the most compelling evidence an investigator can have.”
Members attach their phone to their chest when attending a call and wear a button they can press to start recording.
Batchelor says he also has the ability to hit record at his office as well.
Video is stored in the cloud for 180 days by default, or Batchelor says they can manually choose to keep it indefinitely.
There’s also a GPS in the app that shows a heat map based on the time each officer spends in one location. He says this helps with transparency among officers.
“A short period, like a traffic stop, (the map) will go yellow. If he’s there for a long time, like a coffee break, it’ll show red.”
Batchelor says transparency is important, noting that if the video is edited in-app, it’s permanently highlighted for all members to see.
“It adds another layer of professionalism. It’s compelling evidence if there’s any questions around Charter issues,” Batchelor says.
Batchelor says when he brought the idea forward in Altona, he saw an overwhelming amount of support.
“When I presented this to our police board and to our council, they were 100 per cent unanimously in favour with it.”
“I only got one comment from one councillor, and his comment was ‘this is a no brainer.'”
Batchelor says the app costs his municipality about $4,500 per year in total, and that he understands every community has budgets that need to be met.
Winnipeg city council shot down a motion that proposed body cameras for city police in September, citing the high costs.
Earlier in the summer, Winnipeg police chief Danny Smyth said he would support a pilot project with the cameras, with full implementation costing between $8 million and $10 million.
“Budgets impact every department. We have to justify our expenditures,” Batchelor says.
Calgary Police Service currently uses body cameras. Meanwhile, the Toronto Police Service has committed to providing body cameras to front-line officers by the end of October.
“This is about making sure citizens are safe, and that police officers are also safe.”