Policing

The RCMP ignored their own study by refusing to give body-worn cameras to their officers

An internal study conducted by Canada’s federal police force recommended rolling out body-worn cameras for its officers on a case-by-case basis while the force worked out kinks in the technology. But instead of doing that, the RCMP opted to stop the rollout of the technology “indefinitely.”

“The various reports on [body-worn video] revealed that its use has produced a positive impact on law enforcement.”

It’s an odd series of shifting answers on the technology that both civil liberties groups and police unions have agreed is a good thing.

In its announcement, from last December, the RCMP announced it will “postpone a force-wide implementation until such time as available technology can meet its specific operational requirements.” The statement specifically mentions the “extensive feasibility study” as the basis for the decision.

But the study itself, released to VICE News by the RCMP, doesn’t recommend that course of action at all.

“The various reports on [body-worn video] revealed that its use has produced a positive impact on law enforcement,” the December 2015 report reads. Upsides include a reduction in police misconduct complaints, a reduction in use of force, a more civil and cooperative public, and an improvement in evidence collection.

The study laid out three options to the force leadership: Keep the status quo and decline to proceed with implementing body-worn cameras; implement the cameras force-wide; or offer the cameras to whichever division of the nation-wide force is interested in the technology.

The feasibility report recommended the third course of action.

“Limited permanent implementation in a division is the most viable option,” the report reads. It lists a variety of upsides of this approach, concluding that “a small, medium and large detachment deployment in one division would provide operational data necessary to support a larger deployment within the division over time.”

“Cost is the main disadvantage.”

But when the announcement was made 12 months later, there was no mention of the idea of allowing one of the RCMP’s numerous regional divisions to use the technology.

“Following an extensive feasibility study on [body-worn camera], the RCMP has concluded that the current technology poses several challenges such as limited battery life and lack of camera durability,” reads the RCMP statement announcing the decision. “Based on the results, the decision was made to not implement BWC force-wide for general-duty members.”

The statement ends by noting that the force in 2013 “issued a communique … stating members are not to use personal [body-worn camera] technology of any kind. All members must continue to follow this directive.”

There is no mention in the statement of the full recommendation — that the cameras be rolled out to one, or several, divisions.

They added the RCMP maintains “the goal of eventually identifying a camera that meets our specific needs.”

While the study did find that the issue of storage “will involve high maintenance costs and require massive-capacity solutions” and that battery life was of constant concern, it did not conclude that either issue was the principal issue with the cameras.

“Cost is the main disadvantage,” the record reads.

A spokesperson for the RCMP confirmed to VICE News that the feasibility study conclusion was not adopted, but noted that the cameras could still be deployed, and tested, during certain operations.

Asked why the RCMP was not going forward with the report’s recommendations, the spokesperson said, of the report: “The conclusion notes the challenges that implementing [body-worn cameras] would pose and some of the mitigating factors (such as an enterprise storage solution and limited battery life on the devices) that could make it possible are not available yet.”

They added the RCMP maintains “the goal of eventually identifying a camera that meets our specific needs.”

Cover: Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images

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