Tununiq MLA David Qamaniq wants RCMP to wear body cameras but the territory’s police force says there’s a technological roadblock preventing it.
“The biggest hindrance at this point is data storage,” said RCMP Cpl. Dmitri Malakhov. “Data storage and management solutions are being evaluated.”
When Qamaniq raised the matter in the legislative assembly on Oct. 31, Justice Minister Jeannie Ehaloak said Nunavut’s frigid weather may render the cameras inoperable.
Qamaniq isn’t buying either of those “poor excuses,” as he described them.
“With the technology we have now, everything is possible,” he said. “They can hire a person to look after all that data.”
As for the cold weather, Qamaniq said the RCMP aren’t out hunting on the land like Inuit.
“They don’t stay outside all day long. They’re in the office all day and the only time they go out is when they get a call,” the MLA said.
It’s due to physical altercations between RCMP officers and prisoners caught on camera in Iqaluit jail cells over the years as well as informal reports from Pond Inlet constituents of aggressive behaviour by police that Qamaniq wants body cameras in use.
“They (police) are very abusive sometimes towards people that they’re trying to arrest. (There’s) a lot of things we don’t see happening with the RCMP and Aboriginal people across Canada,” he said, adding that he’s been approached by people in his community expressing support for his position.
Malakhov said the RCMP won’t comment on an MLA’s assessment of any incidents.
“However, the public should rest assured that any and all complaints of police misconduct are investigated and when appropriate, the services of an external agency are requested to avoid a conflict of interest,” Malakhov stated.
A Nunavut News Online Facebook post publicizing Qamaniq’s view on body cameras received 156 positive reactions and 33 comments, the bulk of them in favour of such a measure.
The Tununiq MLA also mentioned the possibility of cameras mounted in RCMP vehicles but Malakhov dismissed that idea outright.
“No. Few interactions with police in Nunavut originate from a traffic stop,” he stated.
There are 131 front-line RCMP officers in Nunavut. The estimated cost of supplying them with body cameras is unknown, according to Malakhov.
Nationally, the RCMP is continuing to evaluate the devices, he added.
“At this time, such cameras are deployed only for specific events, usually protests, with case-by-case approvals,” said Malakhov.
The challenge of data storage, and the associated cost, has led several American police forces to abandon body cameras, according to a Jan. 21 report in the Washington Post. However, the law-enforcement agencies in question all comprised 50 officers or fewer.
Qamaniq said he plans to raise the issue again during the winter session of the legislative assembly in February.