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Halifax police chief opposes police body cameras

Body-worn video is too expensive, says police Chief Blais

3 min read
caption Halifax Regional Police investigate suspicious package.
Lama El Azrak
caption Halifax Regional Police release a report against police body cameras.
Lama El Azrak

Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais says he is against the implementation of body-worn video, wearable cameras that can capture police interactions with the public.

Blais said Monday there are other priorities in the police budget.

“We have to ask ourselves: what can that money do if it’s put elsewhere and to other use?” he told reporters after the board of police commissioners meeting.

In a report to the board, Blais stated that body-worn video is not a cost-effective way to improve the practices of police.

The report states that case studies and academic literature haven’t found convincing improvements in police activity with this video, so implementing it is not worth it. Moreover, if Halifax Regional Police implements the five-year pilot project, it would cost more than $7 million.

The report also states that while some studies show that body-worn video reduces complaints against police and reduces the use of force during arrests, other studies suggest that it has little effect in the reduction of complaints.

In 2014, the Toronto Police Service implemented a 10-month pilot study on police body cameras, which resulted in body cameras for all front-line officers in Toronto.

The RCMP released a study in 2015 on police body cameras that found issues related to privacy, data storage and camera activation. Last year, the RCMP announced it would postpone a force wide implementation of body cameras, saying it needs “to have confidence in the product and ensure that the choice of technology justifies the investment of taxpayer’s money.”

Earlier this year, a Washington, D.C., study found that officers with or without cameras both used force and received complaints at about the same rate.

Blais said there are other technological options that Halifax police should focus on, such as red light cameras and cameras used to better manage traffic.

His report is a followup to the 2015 business plan of the Halifax Regional Police, which promised to report on the possibility of bringing body-worn cameras to Halifax.

At a police board meeting last year, Halifax police Insp. Jim Butler talked about issues on the disclosure of these videos and obtaining consent for filming in private residences.

Blais is expected to give a presentation on the subject during the next police board meeting on Dec. 11.

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