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Police board pushes wearable cameras

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The Winnipeg Police Board wants the Winnipeg Police Service to consider accelerating a long-held city plan to have police officers wear video cameras.

Winnipeg's long-term budget forecast calls for the city to spend $1 million on an "officer mobile video system" -- essentially, wearable video cameras -- in 2016.

The plan involves outfitting 800 police officers with video cameras and hard drives to archive the images they collect.

The spending was first allocated in the 2010 capital budget and has been approved by council every year since.

On Friday, Winnipeg Police Board chairman Scott Fielding, the city councillor for St. James-Brooklands, spearheaded a police board move to request the police research the idea of speeding up the video-camera project.

Fielding said the cameras could result in a more efficient police service and cited a number of Canadian cities where wearable-camera pilot projects are taking place.

The notion wearable cameras would make police more accountable was also raised at the police board meeting.

Winnipeg police Chief Devon Clunis, however, said the price tag for the cameras may be much higher than $1 million, once the cost of managing video footage is taken into account.

Clunis also said the number of legitimate complaints made against police is small. "I really don't think we need additional monitoring of our police officers," he said.

Winnipeg Police Association president Mike Sutherland said a fear of being video-recorded may deter Winnipeggers from offering tips to police.

"There may be people who will not assist police if they're of the view they're being recorded," he said.

Fielding countered if $1 million does not cover the full cost of the program, the police service should amend the budget for the cameras.

Clunis said he personally does not think wearable cameras is a top policing priority and suggested the city is not bound to following through on its commitment to spend $1 million on this particular budget line item.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 7, 2013 A10

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