By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
In the first three months of a pilot project, Durham police officers have captured more than 4,000 videos through body-worn cameras.
The body-worn cameras (BWCs) project was launched on June 22 and involves 75 officers in the West Division, including regular patrol units and traffic enforcement units.
The cameras will also be worn by members of the Festive RIDE campaign coming up later this fall.
According to a report presented to the Durham Police Services Board last month, the use of body-worn cameras has not negatively impacted officer productivity or creating overtime on a “general or regular basis.”
However, It is noted that BWCs “unquestionably create more work for the frontline user.”
DRPS officials note the officers must correctly categorize and file each video they capture. In addition, they are required to review videos to ensure accurate and detailed notes/reports, make a written synopsis of statements taken from videos, and make sure they are suitable for public disclosure.
“Based on the comparable Canadian experiences this additional workload was estimated as two-to-three hours per shift; this raised concerns about the impact of BWCs on public safety as availability for emergency call response could be affected,” the report states.
The report also indicates that the number of calls handled by the participating platoon is down slightly in comparison to the same 60-day-period in 2017.
The number of tickets issued was down across the West Division as well.
It is noted that the average time on scene for officers has increased 23 per cent.
Of the 4,069 videos captured, 49 per cent have been categorized as evidence, and 38 per cent are being used in criminal or provincial offense prosecutions.
There are distinct differences in the number of captured videos being used as evidence between the regular platoon units and traffic enforcement units.
Forty-five per cent of videos captured by frontline patrol units is evidence, in comparison to 81 per cent of videos captured by. traffic enforcement units.
There have been several changes made to the Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS) BWC policy over the past few months.
Officers will now activate cameras when recording on-scene investigative discussions, particularly those relating to reasonable grounds and evidence, and stop recording when no longer interacting with members of the public and/or not collecting evidence.
Supervisors will now review videos relating to incidents involving the use of force and suspect apprehension pursuits, regulated street check incidents and incidents related to public complaints.
They may also review BWC recordings to ensure compliance, training requirements, to debrief incidents and for officer commendation and performance management.
The policy has also been updated in respect to investigations by the Special Investigations Unit, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director and DRPS Professional Standards.
Over the coming months, DRPS will be surveying its officers to gauge the effects of using BWCs on their attitudes towards the technology, as well as the public.
“The DRP BWC evaluation will make very important contributions to understandings of the adoption of BWCs in these regards,” the report states.
The pilot project is set to run until June 2019 and is both on-time and on budget. It is estimated the project will cost $683,000.
According to the latest update, several other police services have reached out to Durham for information regarding to BWC policies and procedures.