WRPS launches body-worn, in-car camera pilot project

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The Waterloo Regional Police Service has launched a body-worn and in-car video camera pilot project.

The project includes 70 body-worn cameras and 40 in-car video cameras, which will be deployed in the North Patrol Division and Traffic Unit.

“This is an exciting time for WRPS and the Waterloo Region community,” Chief Bryan Larkin said in a news release. “As we move towards utilizing current technology to enhance and strengthen our commitment to transparency and accountability, we will carefully and thoroughly evaluate the program to ensure it has the best impact on our Service, the judicial system and our community.”

Officials told CTV News at a media availability Tuesday afternoon that video will only be released when it deals with high public interest, and at the discretion of the executive office, police chief, or the SIU if it is involved in the investigation.

While Larkin said he is excited for the project, he says it was met with some hesitancy from officers.

"All of a sudden now we're asking you, 'hit this button, tell the person that they're being recorded, by the way when you're done and walking away remember to hit the button,'" said Larkin. "It's a growing piece and I do want to let the community know, let's exercise patience."

About $450,000 has been budgeted for the projected, with around $159,000 committed so far.

The program is scheduled to run from June to December 2021.

During an online forum on Tuesday, police shared more information about how the cameras will work during the six-month pilot.

CAMERAS IN CRUISERS

There will be cameras mounted on the dash and ceilings in cruisers, which will provide forward and backseat views.

The cameras will record interactions between officers and citizens, including sobriety tests and frisk searches outside of the vehicle and people in the backseat.

Recording will begin before arriving at a call for service, and before engaging in any investigative or enforcement contact with the public.

Cameras will be muted when it comes to discussing investigative techniques, or information that could put someone in danger.

Officials said footage will be automatically uploaded through Wi-Fi when cruisers return to the station.

BODY-WORN CAMERAS

As for body-worn cameras, officials said they'll be on vests and record a forward perspective.

Officers will start recording when an investigation begins or they need to perform enforcement action.

Officers will have to let anyone directly involved in the recording know they are being filmed.

Recording will begin before arriving at a call for service, and before engaging in any investigative or enforcement contact with the public.

Consent must be given to officers before they begin recording in a private location. Consent does not need to be given when it comes to warrants or an investigation in a public place. 

Officers will be allowed to cover the lens when it comes to cultural or religious services, medical care and to protect the dignity of another person. If they do cover the lens, officers cannot mute the audio and have to state why they are covering the lens. They must also document in their notebook the reason they blocked the camera.

They will stop recording when entering a washroom, conducting a strip search and entering a police facility.

Cameras will be muted when it comes to discussing investigative techniques, or information that could put someone in danger.

Footage from those cameras will be automatically uploaded when they're placed on a docking station.

STORAGE

Police said video from the cameras will be stored in a Cloud-based program developed by the province.

Footage will be kept for 30 months before it is automatically deleted. If it is considered evidence, it can be kept for longer. Recordings can't be edited or deleted from the device.

Officers will be able to review, tag and retrieve footage from the cameras, and footage will also be available to the court systems.

Police said the video is part of a secure system for storage, transfer and disposal.

Residents are invited to weigh in on the pilot program through an anonymous online form.