Six body cameras now form part of equipment worn by members of the New Glasgow Regional Police Service.
The purchase follows a pilot program that included four members of the police service from January to May of this year. The police service, the four officers who wore the cameras and the Public Prosecution Service reviewed the data that led to the purchase.
Deputy Chief Ryan Leil shared a view of the cameras and related equipment recently and described how valuable they will be during police work. It completes a process that started late last year to determine the merits of the cameras and which brand to buy.
“We’re at a point where we’re ready to launch this program,” he said.
It was decided to buy them from the same company that supplied the force with its in-car video equipment it has had for the past 12 years.
“We’re very pleased with the product and service and what it has (offered) us and what we’re able to measure,” he said. “We’ve seen the value of the video in cars and in the five-month pilot project. Having a program for 12 years, we had an idea what we were venturing into. The difference is that this camera goes with the officer. It gives us full coverage. In-car video is very one-dimensional. There are some very compatible components, compatible with existing equipment we have in our vehicles.”
Body cameras have become an emerging tool for police forces. By Leil’s recollection, Calgary police force was first in Canada to use them, while Kentville is the first in Nova Scotia. Truro’s police service also uses them.
The cameras cost $1,100 each, while equipment includes laptops and a special unit that can charge the cameras while downloading the audio and video files recorded.
They are mounted around the mid-torso. Magnetic mounts are tucked inside the garment but outside the protective vest to secure the camera on the outside.
The magnet is strong enough to keep the camera in place.
“You’d have to rip off the entire vest for it to come off,” Leil said.
Body cameras have wide use and value, says the deputy chief. They include enhancing accountability and transparency, as well as reducing conflict and measuring the accuracy of complaints, he said.
Officers are permitted to record in public places, as well as private residences with appropriate legal authorization, such as a search warrant.
“We see it as a great tool for behaviour change and de-escalation,” he said. “We let them know they are being recorded. Being recorded serves as a de-escalation technique.”
He said the public may apply to access video, but not data that infringes upon others.