Skip to content

Support strong for body cameras, RCMP survey shows; national rollout timeline unclear

The majority of Nunavummiut and police officers surveyed on the use of RCMP body cameras in conjunction with a pilot project held in Iqaluit in 2020-‘21 agreed that the devices are useful.
An RCMP body camera pilot project was held in Iqaluit from Nov. 30, 2020 to May 30, 2021. It was an initiative agreed upon by the Government of Nunavut, the Government of Canada and the Nunavut RCMP. Image courtesy of the RCMP

The majority of Nunavummiut and police officers surveyed on the use of RCMP body cameras in conjunction with a pilot project held in Iqaluit in 2020-‘21 agreed that the devices are useful.

But the timeline for implementing the cameras Nunavut-wide and across the country remains unclear.

The police force released the results of its research on body cameras on Tuesday afternoon. Fifty-three Iqaluit RCMP officers wore the devices while on duty between Nov. 30, 2020 and May 30, 2021.

Seventy-three community members participated in the RCMP’s related body camera survey, although the Mounties acknowledged an “underrepresentation of Inuit respondents.” Among those individuals, 68.5 per cent stated that the cameras increased their trust in police, 77.2 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that the cameras helped to make the police more transparent, 61.5 per cent felt that the devices increased public safety and 61.4 per cent could envision the cameras improving the relationship between the police and the community.

However, only 35.8 per cent of survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the devices would reduce police use of force.

Others raised concerns over privacy and when the cameras would be turned on or off.

“These issues are being considered and clarified in the development of national (body-worn camera) policy,” the RCMP stated.

There were “statistically significant differences” between the Inuit and non-Inuit respondents to the survey, according to the Mounties. Among Inuit, 69 per cent reported believing that the cameras would reduce police use of force while only 28 per cent of white respondents felt that way.

Close to three-quarters of white respondents didn’t feel that the cameras invade personal or community privacy, but only about one-third of Inuit respondents shared that outlook.

No white respondents reported having cultural, religious or spiritual concerns with the use of cameras, but 15 per cent of Inuit respondents did.

Among RCMP officers surveyed, 85 per cent supported the adoption of cameras for all frontline officers. Concerns primarily revolved around how the devices would perform, such as battery life and the quality of video footage in low-light conditions.

“Most officers reported that they did not observe a change in their behaviour or the behaviour of the public during the pilot project,” the RCMP stated.

In comparing statistics from the pilot project period to previous years, there was no significant difference in crime trends, the police use of force, public complaints or access to information and privacy requests, according to the Mounties.

The RCMP acknowledged that Covid-19 could have impacted these trends and committed to continuing its data analyses as part of a broader national rollout of body cameras.

But the police force didn’t specify Tuesday when that national adoption of the devices will occur, only indicating that work

across the country “is ongoing.”

However, “Iqaluit will be one of the first locations in Nunavut to receive the newly acquired tool and technology, once the national program is established,” the Mounties assured.

Fact file

Body camera pilot project

-772 (14 per cent) of the 5,421 police occurrences during this period were captured on 3,651 videos

-Videos averaged nine minutes in length

-The 525 hours of recorded video required approximately 1246 GB of storage

-Roughly six per cent of all the videos were redacted for court, with every minute of video requiring approximately four minutes to redact

-There were 17 external requests for the (body-worn camera) policy

About the Author: Derek Neary

Read more