There has been ‘a lot of work behind the scenes’ on the proposed body camera pilot for South Simcoe police officers, members of the Bradford West Gwillimbury-Innisfil Police Services Board heard at this week’s meeting .
South Simcoe Deputy Police Chief John Van Dyke said a three-person committee had been struck to review the settings, restrictions and concerns of staff and the public. The province also made an announcement that will help support the collection of digital evidence.
Although the Ministry of the Attorney General insists that body cameras will not be mandated by the provincial government, a new provincial digital evidence platform has been created in collaboration with AXON, the provider of body cameras and hardware and software. Support. The province has promised a 45 per cent savings in the first year for municipal police departments that sign up for the new system, which will enable electronic sharing of evidence between police departments and court systems.
Van Dyke said South Simcoe Police are currently paying $32,000 a year for their contract with AXON, which expires March 1. If the police services board adopts the new system, there will be savings of nearly $15,000 and costs should come down as more and more police departments sign on, he said.
The province has also negotiated lower rates for digital data storage “far exceeding what we could ever negotiate,” he added.
Working with AXON, South Simcoe Police were able to negotiate a longer pilot period than originally proposed, extending the pilot from three to four months, from April 1 to July 31. There will be no cost for the service for “toy” cameras, software and accessories used during this time, and Van Dyke said there is no obligation to proceed with the use of body cameras from officer at the end of the pilot.
This will be a decision of the Board of Directors, based on the results of the pilot project and the consultation.
South Simcoe Police will assess staff support and concerns before the pilot project begins and after it concludes.
“We will also be conducting a community survey during the four-month project,” Van Dyke said, adding that the “fairly comprehensive” survey will ask residents if they would be willing to financially support the introduction of body cameras through of their taxes.
Pricing will be considered before a decision is made, board members said. At the moment AXON is offering to freeze current 2022 prices if the local service signs on, although there is a clause that would allow South Simcoe Police to cancel, if council members refuse extended use of the cameras worn on the body after examination.
Once the pilot is complete, “we’ll analyze all the numbers, look at all the data, look at the survey responses,” and present a report and recommendation to the board, Van Dyke said. If approved, body cameras could be implemented as early as 2023.
“There are a lot of police departments in the province that have already moved to full-body cameras,” South Simcoe Police Chief Andrew Fletcher said, meaning South Simcoe officers won’t won’t have to ‘reinvent the wheel’ when considering issues like privacy. and the appropriate use of technology.
Other surveys and studies can be used to shape the pilot project, Fletcher said. For example, this could include ensuring the public is informed before a body camera is turned on, prohibiting the use of cameras in medical facilities and religious centers, or automatically turning on cameras when lights, tasers or other weapons are deployed.
Fletcher said the cameras have led to fewer complaints against police and faster resolution of complaints in areas where they are regularly deployed. “People can actually see what’s going on,” he said.
Preliminary consultation with police personnel identified some concerns.
“I think what officers are worried about is that it will make more work for them,” Van Dyke said.
While officers are supportive of new technology, “they don’t like to embrace new technology that still takes 20 minutes of work at the end of the day,” he added.
It will ultimately be up to the police services board to determine whether the benefits outweigh the costs and concerns.