Despite the concerns of privacy, the majority of respondents to a survey noted strong support for the devices, with a large proportion noting they believed the cameras would increase police accountability and provide better evidence. Many taxpayers even supported a bump to the DRPS budget, by far the largest departmental budget for the Region of Durham, in order to pay for the cameras.
However, there is one aspect of this project that has been a concern from the start, that perhaps many in the public haven’t considered.
It was brought forward over a year ago, and even now, the DRPS note that they continue to work closely with the Crown’s office in order to make sure things run smoothly.
Yet, with the sheer amount of data that will be created by these BWCs, it’s going to be a long haul toward ensuring that this evidence doesn’t slow down our criminal justice system more than it already is.
The DRPS are well aware of the concerns that already exist in the Durham legal community around the sharing of this new video evidence. Speaking to the police services board in 2017, Crown Attorney Greg O’Driscoll noted “we’re stretched to the limit” and the introduction of the volume of video could significantly impact his office’s work.
On top of that, a Supreme Court ruling has placed stringent timelines on just how long a court case is allowed to languish in the system before an accused actually sees a trial for their crimes. In that decision, the Supreme Court detailed a “culture of complacency” that had boiled to the surface of the court process, and noted that the system appeared to have “lost its way.”
For that reason, its decision has placed strict and finite timelines on the length of certain cases and when they need to be resolved, allowing 18 months for all matters within the Ontario Court of Justice and 30 months for Superior Court matters.
When dealing with large volumes of video data, which if collected by the police, must be shared with any defence lawyers as part of disclosure, things can slow down fairly quickly.
If the DRPS want this project to succeed, they need to pay close attention to how this process is operating.
It’s encouraging to note that the DRPS will be using an existing platform to assimilate the video data, signalling that perhaps the skill is already there, it’s just a matter of additional work. However, that doesn’t always mean that things will run smoothly, and the members in charge of the BWC project would be smart to keep a close eye on this.
Because in the end, it’s not just the BWC project that could fall by the wayside, something that many in Durham, as the numbers suggest, would be unhappy with, but the impacts on the justice system could be far reaching, and impact important cases that deserve the proper time and attention of our court system.