The union representing more than 19,000 members of the gendarmerie wants clearer guidelines on when body-worn cameras can be turned off – and tougher penalties for those who bring false charges against officers.
“We believe body-worn cameras will contribute to a greater level of context, transparency and accountability for police and citizens,” National Police Federation President Brian Sauvé said today in A press release.
“We are also aware of the very real privacy issues at play and we want to be sure that this new tool will not burden our members, interfere with their primary law enforcement work, or in any way compromise their security.”
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki agreed in June to begin equipping officers with body cameras – a move that came in response to recent controversies over police use of force, accountability and systemic racism . A pilot project is already underway in Nunavut.
The union issued six calls to action on Tuesday, including a call for RCMP policies and training that make it clear when body cameras can or should be activated and why.
“The RCMP must ensure that reasonable expectations of confidentiality – both for members and the public – are met with respect to the policy for storing and editing images and when [body-worn cameras] can be activated and deactivated, ”the union statement said.
The RCMP have said they intend to work with the Federal Privacy Commissioner when deploying body cameras.
The union is also calling for legal sanctions against those who file unfounded complaints against leaders.
“Where legally enforceable and appropriate, charges of public mischief should be brought against those who, with intent and bad faith, bring charges of misconduct against members that are manifestly unfounded, as revealed [body-worn cameras,]”It said.
Unfounded allegations are not unheard of, according to the RCMP’s own statistics.
In August, the RCMP said that only one percent of the more than 3,000 allegations it received about abuse of force over the past five years were proven to be true – although critics have turned back these figures in question.
Millions set aside for nationwide deployment
The union is also calling for user-friendly equipment and a commitment from the RCMP not to distract members from their frontline duties to deal with hours of video footage.
“Particular attention should be paid to the situation of small remote detachments, which often have a limited number of support staff, if any,” the union said.
“We are in favor as long as this new equipment does not add unreasonably to an already heavy workload or jeopardize the safety of RCMP members.”
The November Fall Economic Update included $ 238.5 million over the next six years, starting in 2020-21, to equip RCMP officers with body cameras. Subsequently, the program will be supported with annual funding of $ 50 million.
Mary-Liz Power, spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, said funding for the program will equip RCMP frontline officers with cameras and build a digital evidence system to store and manage the footage.
Restoring Trust with Racialized Indigenous Communities
She said the government had promised to implement a national body camera program for the RCMP to restore trust between police and Canadians, including racialized and Indigenous communities.
The program aims to provide more transparency about police interactions and modernize training with use of force standards, she said.
“The level of police intervention that is applied in any situation must be done in the context of a careful risk assessment. This includes making every effort to minimize the use of force,” Power said in an email.
“Most incidents can be resolved through dialogue, which is why crisis response and de-escalation training is mandatory for all RCMP officers.”
A pilot project currently underway in Iqaluit is equipping four RCMP duty officers per shift with body cameras.
The pilot’s data will help guide policy and strategy for a wider deployment, Power said.