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Body Cameras for Police, Urges Ex-MP

Yatim shooting shows officers too easily skew written reports, says Goldring.

By Jeremy J. Nuttall 29 Jul 2016 | TheTyee.ca

Jeremy J. Nuttall is The Tyee’s Parliament Hill reporter in Ottawa. Find his previous stories here. Support his work here.

A retired MP from Edmonton has renewed his call to have body worn cameras used by police across the country following the sentencing of a Toronto police officer in the shooting death of a teenager.

Former Conservative MP from Edmonton Peter Goldring said in a statement Thursday he doesn’t always trust the police and thinks they should wear the cameras to prevent any disparities between their stories and those they deal with in the line of duty.

Goldring implied that police can too easily take faulty notes or falsify events. “Why do police officers in Edmonton want to keep their pencil and paper evidence notebooks that can be written anywhere, anyhow, anytime?” reads the statement. “Hmmm, I wonder!”

Goldring tabled a motion during his last year in Parliament in 2015 that would have encouraged body-worn cameras and dash cams for police in Canada, but it “died on the order paper,” he said.

But with headlines across Canada Thursday about Toronto police officer Const. James Forcillo being sentenced to six years in prison for attempted murder in the shooting death of Sammy Yatim, a Toronto teenager, Goldring said it’s again time to push for police to wear the cameras.

During sentencing the judge in the case reportedly stressed the officer’s version of events that lead to Yatim’s death didn’t happen.

As well the special investigations unit investigator who had Forcillo charged told media in January the case shows a need for police to wear body cams, and Goldring agrees.

“This is the day and age we’re living in,” Goldring told The Tyee. “There’s cameras everywhere. You can’t go to a 711 without cameras.”

MP was arrested, acquitted

Goldring said his wariness of police statements come from personal experience.

In 2011 he was charged for refusing a breathalyzer test when stopped shortly after leaving a Christmas party in Edmonton and eventually found not guilty.

During the trial, Goldring’s story and that of the officers involved were quite different and now the former MP said he can’t always take police at their word.

He said body and dash cams would save time and money as well as get to the truth of a dispute much better than notes written by officers can.

Goldring said such notes can easily be doctored or based on false memories.

“Police are fallible. They’re just like everyone else; they can make mistakes,” He said. “But they will be treated as the gospel generally while the other person [with a different version of events] wouldn’t be considered because there’s no real evidence.”

Body cam project stalled in Edmonton

Edmonton police had a body cam project underway, but it was put on hold earlier this year.

Police unions have been resistant to the idea of body cameras, questioning their ability to really show the context of an incident.

In 2014 Goldring was ridiculed after releasing a statement urging members of parliament to wear body cams at all times to “prevent besmirchment” should someone wish to falsely accuse them of something.

He later retracted the statement and said he regretted making it.

But it hasn’t stopped his push to have Canadian departments adopt the technology and Goldring said will be raising the issue of body cameras for police whenever he can.

“Don’t we really want to get at the truth?” he asked.

Though his own attempt failed he said he hopes a push for legislation on the police camera issue is brought into Parliament again by another MP.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics

Body Cams Pro and Con

Body-Cam.jpg

Opponents of body cams worry they add costs, can be turned off by an officer at key moments, might violate the privacy of citizens, and footage might not tell the whole story.

Proponents argue that protocols can rule out using the cameras all the time, requiring they be off, for example, when talking to minors or seeking information from sources.

"It’s going to protect police against spurious allegations, and it’s going to protect citizens against the wrong exercise of police authority,” lawyer D’Arcy DePoe told the CBC.

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