Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cameras show police have nothing to hide

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Los Angeles Police officer Jesus Toris wears an on-body video camera on his glasses.

DAMIAN DOVARGANES / THE CANADIAN PRESS / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge Image

Los Angeles Police officer Jesus Toris wears an on-body video camera on his glasses.

It seems everyone these days has a camera or a video camera near at hand most of the time. With the popularity of the smartphone, recording what we see has never been easier.

Added to the explosion of social-media sharing, it's good news for us here in the news business as it helps us relay the day's events to our readers. Even if we are not immediately at the scene of breaking news, we are able to share what you have collected with everyone and help tell the story of what has happened or is happening.

For police agencies, video can be both a saviour and a demon. Take for instance the recent robberies at a number of Summerside-area stores. In some instances, the video footage, once released to the public, has helped police identify the culprits.

But things are not always what they seem. Video can be edited, cut or shot from an angle that might not tell the whole story. Because of that, reports suggest a growing number of police forces are looking to supply officers with recording devices of their own.

Law enforcement, sometimes vilified by video and photographs of passersby, argue video cameras will help improve transparency and restore public trust in the police.

It's an idea catching on in Canada. Calgary has used them, and tests with them have been conducted in Toronto, Edmonton and Ottawa. Some cities are considering wider use.

The cameras are about the size of a smartphone and are clipped to the officer's chest. Police say videos sometimes posted online and spread on social media often fail to show the full exchange in an intervention.

We applaud this decision. There is no harm in getting two points of view -- literally. At the very least it will show the public what the officers see and, if there is any question about conduct, will provide evidence for or against anyone -- police or criminal.

We'd like to think this type of thing wouldn't be needed here in quiet, peaceful P.E.I., but we'd be wrong.

Some civil liberties groups will argue about privacy issues, but there is nothing to say all the video is automatically made public, just that it is available if and when it's needed.

By making this move, police are showing us they have nothing to hide, and in a democracy that seems to be under siege by secrecy, scandal and coverups, that is definitely a good move. Now if we could just get our elected representatives to wear them.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 21, 2014 A6

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