Police camera test may counter bias

By Gerald V. Paul

Gerald V. Paul
Gerald V. Paul

Toronto Police Service will begin testing of officers wearing cameras in November, a potentially key move towards ensuring bias-free policing.

Deputy Police Chief Peter Sloly commented on Facebook that their Police Camera Project will protect good police officers and good citizens and capture the bad conduct of citizens and police alike.

This was one of the recommendations as outlined in the 2012 Police And Community Review (PACER), under Community Consultation, Recommendations 11: “That the Service continue to leverage and monitor the in-car camera system currently installed in all marked police vehicles, as well as explore the possibility of equipping all uniform officers with body worn video cameras.”

This one-year pilot project involves 100 officers in four areas: the 43 Division (Scarborough) Community Response Unit; beat officers in the east end’s 55 Division; a selection of traffic enforcement officers and the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) team, deployed to areas that need extra policing.

Calgary police have also been testing cameras since 2012, while Edmonton, Ottawa and Montreal are engaging in a similar exercise.

And while the former director of the Special Investigations Unit agrees with this new venture, Sloly added they should be expanded to lapel video and Taser cameras.

The PACER recommendations included:

  • Creating a new core value articulating an explicit, continued commitment to delivering bias-free police services and a new values statement reflecting that core value be embedded in all related governance;
  • Designing and conducting reviews at both the unit and Professional Standards Unit level, examining all ranks to proactively assess and address officer performance trends and indicators that may relate to bias, prejudices and / or racial profiling;
  • Continuing to ensure all uniform officers and investigators receive training including but not limited to: Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; Ontario Human Rights Code; articulating cause, reasonable suspicion and investigative detention; note-taking, cause disclosure and court testimony; customer service; tactical communication, strategic disengagement and conflict de-escalation, mediation and resolution; prevention of discrimination, racism and Black racism.