An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
IT LOOKS VERY MUCH as though all front-line police in Canada will be wearing body cameras in the future and it’s about time. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday he’ll talk to premiers about the idea this very week.
It took a major racial crisis and an RCMP officer wiping out an inebriated Inuk man with the front door of his police pickup truck to start a serious conversation but better late than never.
A few police forces in Canada already employ body cameras — or body-worn cameras, BWC — and others are considering them. In B.C. the Independent Investigations Office supports them, and provincial policing standards provide guidelines for their use so it shouldn’t be a big leap to put them into practice.
Of course, body cams must be turned on before they’re of any value. By the way, records indicate Minneapolis police turn their cameras on at the right time in about 93 per cent of incidents, and at least one was on when George Floyd was arrested.
Obviously, then, body cameras aren’t a guarantee against bad policing but there’s plenty of other evidence that they do have a calming effect on police-public interactions.
Instead of simply pitting the word of a law-enforcement officer against that of a suspect, they provide real evidence.
The body cameras serve to protect not only those who encounter police but the police themselves, who might be unjustly accused of bad behaviour.
As Trudeau mentioned yesterday, there will be financial and logistical problems to overcome but nothing that should prevent this change. And, no doubt, some will fret about privacy.
RCMP have resisted the cameras in the past but it’s time to recognize that all police need to build trust and transparency.
Body cameras won’t solve racist police enforcement but they will certainly influence, in a positive way, the manner in which apprehensions are made. And that will be a step forward.
I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.