Bylaw officers may soon have body cams

By Kirk Winter

Kawartha Lakes Police Service have yet to equip their officers with this technology.

If approved by city council in the upcoming 2023 budget, Kawartha Lakes municipal law enforcement and licensing enforcement officers could soon be equipped with body cameras.

“The role of municipal law enforcement officers and licensing enforcement officers is to enforce the municipal bylaw regulations and to do them so without impact to their own personal safety,” said Aaron Sloan, manager of municipal law enforcement and licensing for Kawartha Lakes.

“Each bylaw officer carries safety items when interacting with the public during investigations. Adding a body cam to those safety items will further enhance the safety of bylaw officers, while providing video footage that could be used for investigative training purposes.”

“A body cam will capture the truth of the situation which provides for an open and transparent interaction and response to issues,” Sloan said.

Sloan, in an exchange of emails with the Advocate, said that the request for the body cameras came from his department rather than a request coming from the city.

When asked what the city hopes to achieve with the use of body cameras, Sloan said, “The intention of the cameras is to gather information, to enhance officer safety during negative public interactions, to use select footage for staff training and to protect the city from liability and false accusation.”

If approved by council, the use of body cameras by bylaw enforcement officers will be a first in the city.

Kawartha Lakes Police Service have yet to equip their officers with this technology.

“Our officers do not wear body worn cameras (BWC) currently,” said Sgt. Deb Haggerty in an email exchange with the Advocate. “If you reference our 2022-2025 Strategic Plan, you will see that BWC (are) listed as an … objective under officer equipment. As part of the plan, we are examining available information and making recommendations to the Police Services Board. This process is still ongoing.”

When asked if body camera footage can be used as evidence in a court of law, Haggerty said footage can be used in court proceedings, “however there are privacy considerations that come into effect. Body camera footage often needs to be redacted to address privacy concerns of the other parties.”

“There are a number of different types of technology in the area of BWC,” Haggerty added. “It should be recognized that in addition to BWC hardware costs, consideration needs to be given to costs associated with data storage and data retention cost concerns. As well … additional staff (will be) required to review and redact video footage which would increase the cost further.”

A decade worth of data coming out of various American jurisdictions echoes some of the concerns expressed by Haggerty regarding cost and the need for additional staffing. Other concerns documented include body cameras invading the privacy of citizens, potentially exposing victims and subjecting citizens to facial recognition software.

Police unions across North America have raised concerns about BWC that include disturbing statistics that indicate that “assaults on officers were 14 percent higher when body cameras were present. Some people may react negatively or violently to being filmed by police, especially those who may be under the influence of drugs, alcohol or who are suffering from mental health problems.”

If approved by council, Sloan said the city would purchase 8-10 cameras at an estimated cost of $1,000 per camera. 

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