Why are Quebec’s top two police forces still not equipped with body cameras?

Click to play video: 'Why are Quebec’s top two police forces still not equipped with body cameras?'
Why are Quebec’s top two police forces still not equipped with body cameras?
WATCH: A new report is recommending that body cameras be mandatory for all police forces in Quebec. A government committee formed two years ago came to the conclusion that there should be a single standard for the entire province. Global's Phil Carpenter reports. – Dec 5, 2022

News that body cameras could soon be mandatory for police officers in Quebec comes as a relief to civil rights advocates who say the devices are long overdue.

“We’ve been calling for this for years, come on,” exclaimed Dr. Myrna Lashley, an associate professor in McGill University’s psychiatry department who’s been researching police practice for years. “There’s nothing new here.  They’ve been putting up all kinds of roadblocks.”

The recommendation comes in the form of a report by a special committee formed in 2020 by the province’s security ministry to explore how effective body cameras could be for policing.

Government and law enforcement representatives made up the group which looked at the results of various pilot projects in the province, as well as the consequences of camera use in other provinces.

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“It’s a very, very balanced report in terms of the kinds of solutions and the kinds of direction (it proposes) for the future,” stated Fo Niemi of the civil rights organization Center for Research-Action on Race Relations.

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The document makes 16 recommendations, including establishing common procedures for all police services, deploying cameras progressively, creating one video processing centre for the province and having a common training program for all officers.

“The report also looks at governance issues,” explained Niemi, “how do we manage the information that we collect and who’s going to access it, how is it going to be used, who’s going to use it.”

Police services in the province have been considering the idea for years.

In 2017 the Sûreté du Québec purchased 150 cameras but never used them.

Click to play video: 'Quebec provincial police revive body cam pilot project'
Quebec provincial police revive body cam pilot project

Those like Lashley who’ve been pushing for the cameras believe the change of heart reflected in the report is a sign of the times.

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“I think the Black Lives Matter movement and George Floyd scared the hell out of a lot of them,” she said, “because they can’t hide anymore.”

Others point out that there’s more public pressure for transparency and accountability.

“Maybe there’s greater openness and realization on the part of police officers that body cams can be useful for them and to protect them from all sorts of accusations,” said Niemi.

In a statement, City of Montreal spokesperson Marikym Gaudreault said the administration “welcomes the submission of the report. One thing is certain, we are ready to move forward and equip our police officers.”

She also wrote that the city is awaiting directions from the provincial government.

A spokesperson for the province’s public security ministry said they are studying the report before deciding how to proceed.

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