Delta police expanding body-worn pilot program to patrol officers early next year

A body-worn camera is seen on a South Simcoe Police officer in May 2022. Handout/South Simcoe police

Residents of Delta will soon see more police officers out and about with body-worn cameras as the Delta Police Department (DPD) adds to its testing of the gear.

The municipal force announced Monday it will buy four more cameras and related equipment for patrol officers at an estimated cost of $6,400. The six-month pilot is expected to begin in February.

The move was approved by the Delta Police Board last Wednesday, building on pilots with the interdiction team and traffic section that began in May 2021.

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VPD one step closer to wearing body cameras

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The department said community consultations found 93.3 per cent of respondents supported expanding the camera program to front-line officers in the city.

“We have heard loud and clear that our community strongly supports and expects DPD officers to wear BWCs (body-worn cameras),” Delta Mayor and police board chair George Harvie said in a statement.

“The community’s feedback was key in the Board’s decision to approve the Patrol pilot, making it the first time in BC that a frontline Patrol/General Duty Section will deploy BWCs. Our decision focuses on fostering community trust in police while allowing officers to do their job safely.”

Read more: Vancouver councillors vote to move ahead on body-worn cameras for police

The DPD said cameras will help build public trust, discourage use of force against and by police, de-escalate high conflict situations, help resolve complaints against officers, and assist with training and evidence collection.

The cameras will be used under the provincial government’s policing standards for body-worn cameras, as well as the Delta Police Department’s own policy.

Under that policy, police will not record footage indiscriminately or continuously with the cameras, but are instead authorized to activate them in the following circumstances:

Delta police expanding body-worn pilot program to patrol officers early next year - image
Delta police

That same policy also restricts who can see the footage the cameras collect.

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According to the police force, footage will only be available to a file’s investigating officer, their supervisor or “others with an investigative or documented need to see the footage.”

The footage will be stored in DEMS, a central digital evidence management system municipal police departments will soon be legally required to use. The department said the use of this storage will also help defray some of the costs of running the system.

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Vancouver council appears poised to green light police body cameras

Earlier this month, Vancouver city council voted to move ahead with body-worn cameras for front-line officers. Staff have been directed to assess costs and develop a plan for the cameras by 2024, with the goal of full implementation by 2025.

Police in Toronto and Calgary have already moved to equip front-line officers with body-worn cameras, and the RCMP is preparing to roll out 12,500 cameras across 700 detachments, starting with a field test of 300 units in three divisions.

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Read more: Delta, B.C. police expand use of body-worn cameras

Both the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) have raised concerns about the cameras, primarily citing surveillance and privacy.

“What’s the pressing objective and what is the evidence that they can actually meet that policy objective?” lawyer and BCCLA policy director Meghan McDermott told Global News in an interview earlier this month about the Vancouver police program.

“There is high potential for people’s personal information to become known to the state and then shared within agencies.”

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