Body cameras only a part of the solution to re-building trust in the police
The Toronto Police recently announced a one-year $500,000 pilot project to outfit 100 officers with body cameras to record investigations and dealings with the public. At first look, $5,000 per officer seems outrageous until we consider that this is a pilot study with many facets of which the physical equipment comprises only a small portion of the budget. Online research shows dedicated police body cams starting at only US$199, but the data storage and management costs typically exceed the cost of the equipment by many times per year. The costs to outfit every Toronto officer would be many millions initially, with significant ongoing costs annually.
Nonetheless, the cost/benefit ratio to both the police and Canadians in general will, I strongly believe, fall on the side of implementing the system for every police officer in contact with the public or involved in conducting investigations.
As a former Toronto Police sergeant and undercover investigator of organized crime, I know that the simple knowledge that events are being recorded has a profoundly positive effect upon the behaviours of both police officers and citizens. Even the possibility of hidden recordings due to the universal presence of cell phone videocams is already having an impact upon officer behaviour, to the benefit of all concerned.
I have often relied upon hidden audio and video recordings because they present to the court and everyone the irrefutable truth. Such recordings are only a part of the evidence and have their own limitations, but at least they deter any liars on all sides from fabricating evidence and narratives out of thin air: or expose them after they have done so as more than a few rogue police officers in Canada and the USA have discovered lately.
Other citizens commented on a recent Globe and Mail editorial praising the Toronto Police initiative, that the real test of the police body cameras will be in whether the police and justice system actually use the video recordings to hold police officers accountable for serious wrongdoing.
Time for independent civilian oversight of Ontario’s lawyers?
At least with the police, there is independent civilian oversight on several levels as well as the efforts of the media and hardworking lawyers to try to ensure justice is done and also seen to be done. Not so with Ontario’s legal profession though. Read more