Fredericton police test body cameras during pilot project

Six police officers in Fredericton are now armed with body cameras as part of a three-month pilot project.

The Fredericton Police Force announced the project during a news conference Friday morning.

Deputy police chief Martin Gaudet said they've been working on the project for several years.

"This is just another tool to help us in our investigations and public transparency and trust," said Gaudet.

Three members of the primary response team and three members of the traffic safety section have been trained to use the equipment, which is being provided by Axon TASER.

Const. Patrick Small is one of those officers, and he said they're very excited to use the cameras.

"[We] wanted to be able to add the extra evidence in court to support charges, and to be able to assist in resolving any complaints that come through," said Small.

"When we're out there, there's a lot of stuff that's going on and it's nice to have our own camera capturing whereas a lot of times, there's usually other people that capture only part of what's happening."

Officers will advise members of the public that they're being recorded and, even if a citizen may object, will keep recording whenever they're lawfully placed.

Gaudet said any evidence collected during the pilot project will be admissible in court.

The program is being coordinated by Fredericton Police Force Staff Sgt. Paul Battiste, who said there's a policy in place to determine when officers will turn the cameras on or off.

"It just depends on what type of call you're responding to," said Battiste. "It's all going to come back to what it's going to cost to store [the data]. It's easy for the officer to turn the camera on as soon as he gets it in the morning and have it on for a 12-hour shift, but it comes down to battery life and storage."

"We could, for example, be in a situation for an impaired driver. The officer would have that camera on. And then the officer, for whatever reason, might need to consult with the supervisor to talk about some different investigative avenues to take in that particular file, which is something that we would not want on camera."

While it will be up to officers to turn the camera on or off, Gaudet said they won't be able to delete the files once they're recorded.

"The originals are sent up to the cloud," said Gaudet. "The video can be redacted for privacy issues – voices and people in the video frame that have no part in the file – but the original file is always kept."

And all of that data is encrypted, said Gaudet, so only certain people with the proper credentials will have access to it.

Gaudet said the force has tested different cameras in the past, but the biggest hurdle has always been where to store the information.

"At that time, the information would have been stored in the United States, and we couldn't do that," he said. "We didn't have the capacity, or the money, to build self-storage here in the City of Fredericton, it's too much money, it's just cost prohibitive. In this case, [cloud storage] comes with the service, and [the information] stays in Canada."

Gaudet said the equipment itself will cost the force about $5,000, but what they don't know yet is what it will cost to store the video.

He said that will be one of the considerations when they review the results of the pilot project at the end of June.