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Durham police announce launch of body-worn camera project

The Durham Regional Police have officially announced that starting June 22, officers from several platoons will now be equipped with body-worn cameras as part of a pilot project. (Photo by Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express).

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

A collection of Durham Regional Police officers will soon be wearing cameras while on the job, a result of extensive consultation, research and preparation by the police force.

The DRPS Body-Worn Camera Pilot Project has been ongoing for a number of years, mostly consumed with research and preparation. However, following an official announcement at the DRPS West Division headquarters today, things are about to officially get underway.

Starting on June 22, approximately 80 officers from platoons in Ajax and Pickering, along with some members of the Traffic Enforcement Unit and the 2018 Festive RIDE campaign will be equipped with the devices. The project comes with a $1.2 million price tag, half of which was approved in the 2018 regional budget.

For A/Sgt. Jason Bagg, the project manager for DRPS’s BWC program, the evidence from BWC projects around the world have shown that the cameras can have positive effects on many aspects of policing, including reducing workload, improving officer and police trust and accountability, as well as improving the court system by increasing convictions and guilty pleas.

“What’s not clear is how that would play out in our setting,” Bagg says. “We’re unsure whether we’ll realize the same benefits.”

Bagg and the DRPS are uncertain what results will come out of the pilot project, but one aspect of the project seems clear, and that is public acceptance.

As part of the initial phases of the BWC project, a public survey was conducted both online and through random phone calls to allow DRPS to test the waters on how the people of Durham Region felt about BWCs. In total, 2,274 responses were received through the online survey and the results were clear.

The police hope to have a final report and recommendation on BWCs completed by late 2019, early 2020. The item will pass through several levels of bureaucracy ahead of any final approval, including the Durham Region Police Services Board and eventually Durham Region council who will need to approve the item as part of the annual police budget.

More to come.