Saskatoon parking enforcement staff equipped with body cams after 'a number of assaults'

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City council is looking for answers after learning that body cameras were quietly implemented for parking enforcement agents last year.

In March, Saskatoon Police Service launched a pilot program equipping officers with body-worn cameras.

However, similar cameras were already in use among parking enforcement staff.

The detail was included in an annual report from the city's community standards division.

"City and contract staff working in parking services have frequent interactions with the public with high potential for conflict," the report said.

"In 2021, a body-worn camera program was implemented as a staff safety tool in response to an increased risk of violence.

Given the potential concerns around privacy that accompany the devices, the fact the cameras were already in use came as a surprise to Ward 2 Coun. Hilary Gough.

"This was a bit of a surprise to me and I know that of course, the Saskatoon Police Service has undergone a tremendous amount of research and engagement around that," Gough said.

"I'm wondering, what kind of privacy review was done before this implementation was contemplated and whether there are other jurisdictions using this for similar services."

Community services general manager Lynn Lacroix said the decision to introduce the cameras followed consultation with Saskatoon Police Service "after a number of assaults" on parking enforcement agents.

Community standards director Matt Grazier said the intent of the program was to help prevent interactions with the public from escalating.

"I'd say at least anecdotally, our team has been very pleased with the results from what I've heard (there's been) a reduced number of instances and adverse confrontations out on the street."

Grazier said that the program was taken through the "standard process" involving the city's privacy commissioner.

The recordings captured by the cameras are regulated by the Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, according to the community standards division.

The councillors present at Monday's planning, development and community services committee meeting — where the report was discussed — voted unanimously to request a report looking into the privacy considerations and cost of the program.

"There may very well be some substantial benefits here. I think it's probably necessary for us from a due diligence standpoint to spend a little bit more time understanding the implications of this," Ward 7 Coun. Mairin Loewen.