There has been another police-related death in Nunavut and yet another investigation by Ottawa Police Service, but instead of being able to rely on footage of the incident a body camera would have provided, police are now tasked with piecing together a narrative as best they can by word of mouth.
From the most recent shooting in Clyde River on May 5, to the second most recent in Kinngait on Feb. 26, another armed standoff in Kinngait and an Iqaluit man charged with pointing a firearm at RCMP, tensions are seemingly at an all-time high in Nunavut.
With violent and disturbing incidents taking place routinely in the least densely populated province or territory, the RCMP’s preference for the status quo is a recipe for disaster and will do nothing to heal relations between law enforcement and Nunavummiut, as we’ve said in a March 19 editorial.
Now Nunavut’s senator, Dennis Patterson, and MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, have both joined Tununiq MLA David Qamaniq in the fight advocating for the installation body cams.
Patterson refers to the “erosion in the trust between the RCMP and Nunavummiut that is making it difficult for them to continue to fulfill their duty to serve and protect.”
And the RCMP know this as well. In other jurisdictions, and around the world, policy camera footage is often the purest indicator of objective truth and is instrumental in weeding out wrongdoing and educating active police members on procedure and high-stakes decision making.
It would also, as Qaqqaq points out, provide “more insight on the challenges and room for improvement within the justice system.”
Most importantly for police, body cam footage would also serve to absolve officers accused of acting wrongfully when the truth is in dispute.
Nunavut’s V division leader, Chief Supt. Amanda Jones has previously cited logistical challenges and lack of funding as the main reason why these cameras are not in use, but the cost of these cameras must be quite high if our national police service do not deem them important enough to use in Northern jurisdictions.
Now the RCMP national headquarters in Ottawa has released a statement citing over-six-year-old news releases on battery capacity as an excuse, as if battery technology hasn’t improved.
This answer, and the lack of progress on a pilot project in Iqaluit, reveals the RCMP are not even in the beginning stages of implementing any new policies.
But it also makes them appear uninterested. If body-cams are truly not a viable option in the North, then RCMP should be laying out the issues precisely to the public and showing them why it is not an option. But so far it seems no one in the force has the resolve needed to get the job done.
Having concrete records is something taken very seriously in the world of journalism as well. It acts as our shield against those who take aim at the truth of our reporting and safeguards us against bad actors who would make claims to put us out of business. Much the same can be said about police work, except their business is one of life and death.
Nunavut police are facing an uphill battle trying to win the trust of those they are duty-bound to protect and without body cameras, that job is looking nearly impossible.