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Alberta UCP promises body-worn cameras for all officers

In an effort to strengthen transparency, accountability and trust in police, Alberta’s UCP government on Tuesday pledged to introduce body-worn cameras on all law enforcement officers.

It’s not yet clear how much it will cost or when it will happen, but the state’s public safety and emergency services minister said the government has a task force looking into the details.

“The demand for transparency has never been clearer,” Mike Ellis told reporters in a statement.

“The desire for police services to be committed to ensuring they are worthy of the trust we place in them to protect the public is high.”

The cameras will be attached to officers’ chests or heads and will have microphones and internal data storage.

Alberta will be the first province to require body cameras for all officers.

Calgary began using body-worn cameras for all patrol and traffic officers, as well as some front-line officers, in April 2019. Ellis said he believes some RCMP officers also wear body cameras.

“Mandating the use of body cameras will help strengthen public safety by documenting police behavior in the public, gathering better evidence and improving our approach to dealing with complex complaints,” he told reporters.

“Faster and easier court cases” are also a benefit, Ellis said.

Camrose Police Chief Dean LaGrange says in-car video is already being used there. He hailed the announcement as a “step forward”.

Edmonton Police Chief Dale McPhee said his officers are also happy to wear body cameras.

“Increasing the transparency and legality of CCTV is something we have supported and will always support. Our association and our members welcome it,” McPhee said.

“If you don’t have this transparency, what happens is you get video capture, whether it’s off the cell phone or whether it’s off the various cameras that just capture a picture of it.”

The state will also work with the Privacy Commissioner during the process.

A three-year study completed in Edmonton in 2014 put the cameras at $1,000 each, as well as “very significant costs” for data management.

McPhee said the technology has improved significantly since the study was completed.

Ellis did not give a specific timeline for the initiative, but said he plans to get a draft from the task force “within the next three or four months,” which would be after the May election.

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