The Delta Police Department is expanding its use of body-worn cameras to include some front-line patrol officers, starting in February 2023.
At its Dec. 14 meeting, the Delta police board approved a pilot deployment of body-worn cameras for the DPD’s patrol services section, which will begin with two officers from each of the department’s four platoons/shifts being equipped with the cameras for six months, followed by a review.
The move follows an appeal in September for public input on expanding the department’s use of the devices. The DPD became the first department in B.C. to deploy the cameras operationally, starting with its gang interdiction team in May 2021 and later expanding to the traffic section — a move that was made permanent on June 22 of this year.
According to a news release on Monday (Dec. 19), the community consultation found that 93 per cent of respondents support expanding the program to the front-line patrol officers, while 6.7 per cent oppose the move.
Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Laura Cassidy and TFN’s executive council also supported expanding the DPD’s use of body-warn cameras.
This will mark the first department in B.C. to use such cameras on front-line patrol and general duty officers.
”Our decision focuses on fostering community trust in police while allowing officers to do their job safely,” police board chair Mayor George Harvie said.
The cost for the patrol pilot project will be approximately $6,400, primarily for the purchase of four additional cameras and related equipment such as chargers.
According to the department, the benefits and expected outcomes include: enhanced transparency, public trust and confidence in policing; enhanced officer safety by discouraging use of force against police; de-escalating high-conflict situations to avoid use of force by police; providing real-life training examples and insight into policing/public encounters to assist with training initiatives; assisting in complaint resolution about alleged officer misconduct and enhanced evidence documentation.
“Police legitimacy and public trust are emerging themes in the current policing landscape and must be at the forefront of a modern and progressive community policing approach, which the DPD remains committed to,” police chief Neil Dubord said in a statement.
Monday’s release notes the use of cameras will follow existing department policy and provincial standards.
When in the cameras are in use, police must record their interactions with the public “in an overt capacity” and tell people they are being filmed unless it is unsafe in the moment to do so.
The DPD has also established a strict policy around accessibility and release of the camera footage, which can only be accessed by the investigating officer, their supervisor and others with an investigative or documented need to see the footage.
The footage is stored in a centralized digital evidence management system — which is mandatory for all municipal police departments — significantly reducing data storage costs.