Some VPD officers will wear body cameras next month. Here’s how the pilot project will work.

A body-worn camera is seen on a Vancouver police officer during a demonstration on Dec. 22, 2023.

The Vancouver Police Department will begin a six-month pilot project in January that will see some officers equipped with body-worn cameras.

About 80 officers will wear the cameras, which are about the width of a cellphone, attached to the vest of their uniform.

Only officers in the downtown business district and areas around the PNE will be wearing the body cams in the pilot.

To activate the camera, the police officer must press a button twice to turn it on, alerting people nearby with two loud beeping sounds.

“Leading up to me turning it on, it’s always recording a 30-second buffer of video only, not audio, but video, so that way if we find ourselves in a situation where we have to react instantly and then turn it on, it’s captured the previous 30 seconds to help tell a part of that story,” said Const. Jason Doucette, VPD spokesperson.

According to Doucette, the officer must alert the person they’re interacting with that they are being recorded.

To shut the camera off, the officer must hold down the button for at least three seconds before another long beeping sound is played.

“It’s no secret that you’re being recorded – it’s loud, it’s bright,” said Doucette.

VPD members must then connect their cameras to a system at the end of their shift to upload the video into a secure online platform.

“Everything with these cameras is documented,” Doucette added. “If I was to go in there to manipulate it, to ask for some vetting, that’s also documented. Every time you touch it, it leaves a footprint.”

The footage is then held for 13 months. According to Doucette, it is not possible to delete footage from the cameras.

“Privacy laws here in Canada and British Columbia, and the guidelines that are set out for these body-worn cameras, it’s not going to be like the U.S where you see an incident in the morning and it’s going to be on the news in the evening because we shared it, it’s just not going to work like that,” he said.

The tool is being commended by Curtis Robinson, a retired VPD officer.

“It’ll probably streamline the complaint process, for people that believe they were mistreated by the Vancouver Police Department or other police departments. It’ll help the IIO in their investigations to shorten that up because they do take a long time in their investigations and it’ll probably open the door for transparency and trust,” said Robinson.

While he likes the idea of implementing the cameras, he doesn’t think it will change the behavior of either the person or officer.

“Policing is a confrontational game, lots of times people are just angry with you doing your job,” he said.

“But if there is an incident that is particularly violent or unfortunate or confrontational, you’ll have a record of accuracy.”

Expediting the VPD’s implementation of body-worn cameras was among the recommendations of a coroner’s inquest into the death of Miles Gray earlier this year.

Gray died after being severely injured during an arrest by Vancouver police in 2015. The inquest jury deemed the death a homicide, which, in that context, does not assign blame, find fault or denote criminality. The finding indicates that someone died due to injury intentionally inflected by another person.

Advocates have long called for the use of body cameras to increase trust, transparency and accountability between police and the public.

Last year, Vancouver city council voted in favour of outfitting every frontline VPD officer with a body-worn camera by the year 2025.

If the current pilot project is successful, it would lead to the new equipment being used by all officers.

Source: CTV News