The Delta Police Department is expanding its use of body-worn cameras to include some front-line patrol officers, starting in February.
At its Dec. 14, 2022, meeting, the Delta police board approved a pilot deployment of body-worn cameras (BWCs) for the DPD’s patrol services section. Under the pilot project, which is expected to begin in February 2023, two officers from each of the department’s four platoons/shifts will be equipped with BWCs for six months, after which the program will be reviews by the board.
The move follows an appeal in September for public input on expanding the department’s use of the devices. The DPD became the first department in B.C. to deploy BWCs operationally, starting with its gang interdiction team in May 2021 and later expanding to the traffic section — a move that was made permanent on June 22 of this year.
According to a press release announcing the pilot on Monday (Dec. 19), the community consultation found that 93.3 per cent of respondents support expanding the program to the front-line patrol officers, while 6.7 per cent oppose the move.
Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Laura Cassidy and TFN’s executive council also supported expanding the DPD’s use of body-warn cameras.
“We have heard loud and clear that our community strongly supports and expects DPD officers to wear BWCs. The community’s feedback was key in the board’s decision to approve the patrol pilot, making it the first time in B.C. that a front-line patrol/general duty section will deploy BWCs. Our decision focuses on fostering community trust in police while allowing officers to do their job safely,” police board chair Mayor George Harvie said in a press release.
“The decision further supports the DPD’s Community Safety and Well-Being Plan (CSWP), which is the product of diverse input including [from] the community, DPD team, City of Delta council and various stakeholders/partners. We remain committed to the CSWP priority/goal to leverage technology to enhance and develop efficiencies for continuous improvement.”
The cost for the patrol pilot project will be approximately $6,400, primarily for the purchase of four additional BWCs and related equipment such as chargers.
According to the release, the benefits and expected outcomes for the deployment of BWCs are enhanced transparency, public trust and confidence in policing; enhanced officer safety by discouraging use of force against police; de-escalating high-conflict situations to avoid use of force by police; providing real-life training examples and insight into policing/public encounters to assist with training initiatives; assisting in complaint resolution about alleged officer misconduct; and enhanced evidence documentation.
“Police legitimacy and public trust are emerging themes in the current policing landscape and must be at the forefront of a modern and progressive community policing approach, which the DPD remains committed to,” DPD Chief Neil Dubord said in a press release.
“The continued expansion of the BWC program is the fruition of that commitment in alignment with our community’s expectations, to whom we are ultimately responsible and provide services to. I am fortunate to have a front-row seat in witnessing our team’s commitment and dedication for our community’s safety and well-being, and this pilot will support the work of our team.”
Monday’s release notes the use of BWCs will follow existing DPD policy and provincial standards, with oversight from the the department’s management team.
The DPD’s body-worn cameras policy (OD19) outlines the circumstances under which DPD officers may use the BWCs, and officers are not allowed to film continuously or indiscriminately. When in the cameras are in use, police must record their interactions with the public “in an overt capacity” and tell people they are being filmed unless it is unsafe in the moment to do so.
The DPD has also established a strict policy around accessibility and release of BWC footage, which can only be accessed by the investigating officer, their supervisor and others with an investigative or documented need to see the footage.
BWC footage is stored in a centralized digital evidence management system — which is mandatory for all municipal police departments — significantly reducing data storage costs.
The release notes there may be additional costs related to processing requests that may come from the public, court-related disclosures and other agencies, which can currently be managed with existing staffing and resources. However, should there be a need to hire for a related position, the expected annual cost would be $84,738, and the department would make “every effort to find internal efficiencies for this position.”
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