Body cameras: expensive and inefficient, experts say

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As the RCMP plans to acquire 10,000 body cameras for its constables, experts say it is a costly and unhelpful measure to counter police brutality and racial profiling.

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“Hand-held cameras do not have the miraculous effect you would expect from them,” says Rémi Boivin, a professor at the School of Criminology at the University of Montreal.

His research shows that the presence of cameras has no marked effect on the use of force during police interventions.

For him, the deployment of such a system would be rather a political gesture to prove to the public that the RCMP is ready to show its paws.

“The RCMP wants to do everything possible to ensure that Canadians […] have confidence in it, “read the request for information on body cameras released by Public Works and Government Services Canada last month.

According to the same document, 10,000 body cameras could be used as of July 2021 by some of the 12,000 gendarmes employed by the federal police.

A recurring expense

At no time does it specify the costs associated with this measure, but Rémi Boivin warns that they could amount to “millions and millions of dollars” each year.

It’s the training of staff and the storage of thousands of hours of video – not the cameras themselves – that would inflate the bill.

“Are we willing to put that much money on the cameras? It’s a question of society, ”says the criminologist.

Already this summer, Justin Trudeau publicly raised the idea of ​​equipping the RCMP with handheld cameras after the death of African-American George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

One more tool

However, criminologist Massimiliano Mulone believes that these devices constitute a simplistic solution to complex problems such as racial profiling or systemic racism.

“If the police intervene more with certain racialized populations, it is not because there are no cameras to film them”, affirms Mr. Mulone, recalling that the citizens are more and more numerous to record police operations.

A retired RCMP police officer and advisor to the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, Alain Babineau is more of the opinion that camera recordings have their uses in court, after the fact.

“It gives people some confidence. It’s no longer just their word against that of the police officer, “he said.

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