One of the things Pivot Legal Society wants to discuss with new Vancouver chief constable Adam Palmer is suiting up police officers with body-worn cameras.
Because the force has concerns about costs, the Downtown Eastside–based advocacy group has a suggestion on how to get things rolling. “One area, specifically, that might really benefit from body-worn video would be the dog squad,” Pivot lawyer Doug King told the Straight in a phone interview.
Police-dog bites in Vancouver have been a major issue for Pivot. Last year, the organization released a report noting that the city had 22 percent more incidents of bites than all other B.C. police jurisdictions combined from 2010 to 2012. The Vancouver Police Department also accounted for 80 percent of police-dog bites in all urban areas across the province.
King noted that there are a lot of discrepancies between what dog handlers and bitten people say happened. “That’s one battle of credibility that we think could really benefit from having cameras on the officers, and you’re also talking about a relatively small group,” he said about the canine unit.
VPD spokesperson Const. Brian Montague indicated that the force has no immediate plan to equip officers with body-worn video devices. He explained that it’s not the cameras but the retention and storage of data that are costly.
“It’s just not happening right now,” Montague told the Straight by phone.
In February this year, a bipartisan committee of the B.C. legislature recommended that the province should take steps to equip police forces with body-mounted cameras. The proposal was part of a report on the Independent Investigations Office of B.C., the agency that investigates cases of death and serious injury involving police officers.