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City police could soon be carrying cameras

Domestic violence injuries would be captured on film

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A provincial committee wants police armed with a new crime-fighting tool -- a camera.

In one of a series of recommendations released Wednesday, Manitoba's Domestic Violence Death Review committee wants all police officers to have cameras with them when they respond to domestic violence calls.

The committee says that would allow police to immediately photograph a victim's injuries for use in court.

Justice Minister Andrew Swan said while the recommendation is worthy, he first needs to meet with police to determine how it would work in practical terms.

"Does that mean there needs to be a camera in every car, which may be an interpretation," Swan said. "Does that mean that there needs to be a camera in each station, which I suppose could be an interpretation. We want to hear from police on how they can best achieve this."

Swan said it's too early to interpret the committee's recommendation front-line officers should be outfitted with tiny video cameras to record their interactions with victims and suspects. Police in some jurisdictions in the United States and United Kingdom already wear such cameras -- in Staffordshire, U.K., even police dogs wear the digital FidoCam to gather evidence.

"The police may have some good ideas on this," Swan said. "They're not afraid to look at what's going on in other countries."

RCMP spokesman Cpl. Miles Hiebert said Mounties in Manitoba already routinely carry cameras or have immediate access to them and use them as part of their investigations.

"If there are visible injuries, they would be photographed for investigation and court purposes," he said. "This would apply to any complaint of assault."

Winnipeg police were unavailable for comment.

Barbara Judt, CEO of Osborne House, a city emergency shelter for women and children escaping domestic abuse, said having cameras available for police to document injuries or other evidence would be a great improvement over simply taking notes.

"It makes a lot of sense and I believe people would not have a problem supporting it," she said. "I think the community would receive it well."

The province's Domestic Violence Death Review committee was created by the province in June 2010 as a way to prevent more women from being killed by husbands and boyfriends. Its first report is based on its review of one recent Manitoba domestic homicide. Specifics of that case were not released -- only a summary.

The committee is made up of representatives from Manitoba Justice Victims' Services, Prosecution Services and Adult Probation Services along with the Family Violence Prevention Program, Manitoba Status of Women, Manitoba Women's Advisory Council, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Winnipeg police, RCMP and RESOLVE, a regional family violence research network.

Judt said the committee should be commended for putting together solid recommendations.

"I would rather that they do things right than running forward at a pace where everything is knee-jerk and they're not taking the time to really think about what it is they want to do," she said.

The committee was set up to review selected criminal cases to identify trends, risk factors and patterns. Committee members explore the history, circumstances and conduct of the perpetrators, victims and their families. They also interview people close to the case such as friends, family or even the accused.

Swan and Judt also said they agreed with the recommendation information about animal cruelty be shared between the city's animal services department and law enforcement, as cruelty to animals can sometimes be a precursor to domestic violence.

Review committee recommendations

Reducing domestic violence -- the recommendations of Manitoba's Domestic Violence Death Review committee in its first report:

Ensure all police officers have direct access to cameras when responding to domestic violence calls so injuries to victims can be photographed immediately.

Ensure mandatory, ongoing domestic violence training for medical professionals and police agencies.

Develop a public awareness campaign that targets youth and promotes healthy relationships, and domestic violence support services for family members including promotion of the domestic violence toll-free number (1-877-977-0007) as a resource for families who have loved ones involved in domestic violence relationships.

Review and explore the use of risk factor checklists and the implications for police, Victim Services, Prosecutions and Corrections and report to the advisory committee on the findings.

Review and explore services available to family members impacted by domestic homicide that offer practical assistance and recommend where and how families can receive this support.

Review and explore the creation of an information-sharing protocol with Animal Services in recognition that domestic violence is often linked to cases involving animal cruelty.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 10, 2013 A10

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