By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Durham Police’s body-worn camera pilot project has not created a significant increase in officer overtime seven months into its implementation.
According to the latest staff update on the project, it hasn’t ended in more forced overtime, reduced call responses or affected traffic enforcement.
But the amount of time officers in platoons using body-worn cameras are spending on scene did increase 10 per cent in the first six months of the project.
Pickering councillor Kevin Ashe voiced some surprise over this, questioning whether it creates concerns for police officials over resources and the management of staff and platoons.
Sgt. Jason Bagg, manager of the pilot project, said using cameras hasn’t changed how officers interact with members of the public.
He noted when observing an officer’s time on scene includes work performed at the police station.
There was an expectation cameras would add to an officer’s workload, and Bagg estimates it adds an average of five to 12 minutes on scene per call.
DRPS West Division superintendent Joseph Maiorano noted some police forces using body-worn cameras have reported an increase of between two to three hours a shift for officers.
However, an impact to that extent has yet to be seen in Durham.
A “discreet” workload assessment for the pilot project will be completed in the future, Maiorano said.
“We’ll be in a better position to determine the actual impact on workload,” he said.
As of late-December, approximately 13,000 videos had been captured by Durham officers.
About half of those are evidence in criminal or provincial offence investigations, and 28 per cent are involved in ongoing prosecutions.
However, Bagg noted evidence captured by Durham officers has not played a role in any criminal convictions yet, or been presented in court.
“As only six per cent to eight per cent of our criminal charges end up in trial, I’m not surprised we don’t have any results from the criminal Crown’s office at this point,” he said.
But according to Bagg, the number of guilty pleas in provincial offence matters in Durham has “significantly” increased since body-worn cameras were brought in.
Scugog Mayor Bobbi Drew wondered if a case backlog has been created for Crown Attorney staff.
Bagg acknowledged there is an increased workload as a result of managing cases with camera evidence, but he doesn’t know what the full impact is.
“We haven’t been to trial and I think that’s where you’ll see some of that additional workload. I’m not sure we are there yet to answer that question,” he said.
Board member Rose Rockbrune inquired what officers’ opinions were of the cameras.
There’s been both positive and negative feedback, Bagg explained, as some officers feel they have “less discretion” when wearing a camera.
But he cautioned it’s still too early to make any conclusions either way.
The pilot project was completed in 2018 within its $682,781 budget.
It is noted the project required funding variances for unplanned expenses due to facilities, computer equipment, wiring, and training. However, those costs were offset by savings in anticipated civilian salaries and frontline overtime.