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Guelph police budgeting for body-worn cameras amid pilot project

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The Guelph Police Service is budgeting to make body cameras a permanent piece of equipment for its front-line officers amid a pilot project investigating the devices.

The service is about to wrap up a one-year pilot project that is exploring whether the cameras are an effective tool for officers and the community.

Read more: Guelph police are trying out body cameras as part of 1-year pilot project

Twenty-one cameras, capturing audio and video, have been in use since September 2020.

A summary report is expected to be presented sometime in the fall with the police board deciding then whether the cameras should be made permanent.

But even before the pilot is scheduled to end, the service has asked the board to approve an estimate of $7 million over the next 10 years to make the cameras permanent as part of its capital budget and forecast.

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That includes spending $1.8 million between 2022 and 2024. That budget also includes stun guns, data storage, training and IT equipment.

An additional $372,600 in annual costs is also being requested to hire three full-time forensic video staff.

When asked why the service is budgeting for the cameras before the pilot project ends, a police spokesperson said it is due to budget cycles and the timing of the pilot.

“We have tentatively asked the board to earmark funds to make our use of the technology permanent,” Scott Tracey said in an email.

“A final determination will not be made until after the results of the pilot project have been fully analyzed and presented to the Guelph Police Services Board in the fall.”

As part of the pilot, the service also partnered with Alana Saulnier, who is the criminology program co-ordinator at Lakehead University and has previously worked alongside the Chicago Police Department and Durham Regional Police Service.

The service said it hopes the partnership will help gain a better understanding of the impact cameras have on the community and its officers.

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The entire three-year capital budget presented on Thursday lays out $8.5 million in spending on equipment, vehicles and facility maintenance.

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The board approved a one-year budget last year, but this year’s budget covers three years between 2022 and 2024 to align with the City of Guelph’s spending plans.

The service said the $8,572,500 budget is a zero per cent increase over what was forecasted in last year’s presentation.

Along with the cameras, police are requesting $2.4 million for items such as computers, servers and cellphones along with other IT equipment.

The service also plans on purchasing four new hybrid vehicles next year and one more in 2023 at a cost of $420,100. The board was told that one older vehicle would be transferred to the recruiting unit instead of being sold.

Looking at long-term estimates, the service is forecasting $28 million in capital expenses between 2025 and 2031.

Read more: Waterloo Regional Police to test out body-worn and in-car cameras

The capital budget will return to the police board on Sept. 16 for approval. The operating budget, which covers salaries and other day-to-day expenses, will be presented that same day.

The budgets will then be presented to city council in November.

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