NPF welcomes BWCs, but warns of interference with core police work and perils to safety of RCMP Members

Ottawa, ON — The National Police Federation today released its position statement on the implementation of body-worn cameras for RCMP Members, which are an important tool for improving transparency and accountability, for building positive community relations between police officers and citizens, and for evidence collection.

In the early 2010s, many large Canadian police organizations, including the RCMP, undertook studies to examine the effectiveness and expected costs of implementing and operating BWCs. The RCMP study found challenges with durability, battery life, and keeping the device mounted on the uniform. Since then, technology has advanced, costs have fallen, and deployment of BWCs in police services has become more prevalent.

In June 2020, both Prime Minister Trudeau and RCMP Commissioner Lucki expressed support for acquiring BWCs for the RCMP, and we welcomed the government’s 2020 Fall Economic Statement announcing funding of $238.5 million over six years to support this roll-out. On that same day in November, our Members in Iqaluit, Nunavut began a new BWC pilot project to help inform the broader BWC roll-out across Canada.

“In today’s digital age, cameras and video recorders are everywhere – often in the same device – and they’re capturing a great deal of information and interactions that would otherwise never be seen,” said Brian Sauvé, President, National Police Federation. “We believe that body-worn cameras will contribute to a greater level of context, transparency and accountability for both police and citizens. We are also aware of very real privacy issues at play and want to be sure that this new tool won’t encumber our Members, interfere with their core police work, or compromise their safety in any way,” he added.

In practical and operational terms, considerable time and attention will be needed for downloading, editing, and securely storing BWC footage. The actual hardware will also need to be maintained. Depending on the amount of footage recorded, this could take hours beyond a Member’s designated shift. Absent other changes, if these responsibilities are left solely to Members, they will incur overtime, take them away from more urgent core policing duties, or time with their families, which would not be a productive use of time, taxpayer money, and service to the community.

NPF’s Call to Action

  1. The RCMP must ensure that Members are not diverted from their core duties or required to take on burdensome administrative or logistical tasks due to the implementation of BWCs. Possible solutions, such as the assignment of civilian staff specifically for handling BWC footage and maintaining and repairing BWCs, should be strongly considered. Special attention should be paid to the situation of small and remote detachments, who often have limited numbers of support staff, if any.
  2. The RCMP must ensure that—prior to the mass roll-out of BWCs—thorough policies and training, developed in consultation with the NPF, are put in place that clearly define when the devices may or must be activated, and why.
  3. The RCMP must ensure that reasonable expectations of privacy—both for Members as well as the public—are respected with regards to policy for the storage and editing of footage and for when the BWC can be turned on and off.
  4. The RCMP must ensure that hardware problems identified in the 2015 feasibility study are addressed with a user-friendly solution that will neither complicate our Members’ equipment nor compromise their safety in a dangerous situation.
  5. When legally applicable and appropriate, charges of public mischief should be laid against those who, with intent and in bad faith, make accusations of misconduct against Members that are clearly unfounded, as revealed by BWC evidence.
  6. Given the low levels of BWC deployment in Canada and the mostly inconclusive results from the United States, the RCMP must be clear about their objectives for BWC implementation. They must also state how outcomes will be measured. BWCs should not be treated as a panacea to ongoing policing challenges and cannot be a replacement for proven measures like adequate resourcing of police and social services.

About the National Police Federation:

The National Police Federation (NPF) was certified to represent ~20,000 RCMP front-line Members serving across Canada and internationally in the summer of 2019, and its elected national Board of Directors confirmed in early 2020. The NPF is the largest police labour relations organization in Canada; the second largest in North America and is the first independent national association to represent RCMP Members.

The NPF is focused on improving public safety in Canada by negotiating the first-ever Collective Agreement for RCMP officers, and on increasing resources, equipment, training and other supports for our Members who have been under-funded for far too long. Better resourcing and supports for the RCMP will enhance community safety and livability in the communities we serve, large and small, across Canada.

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Media contact:
Fabrice de Dongo
Manager, Media Relations
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(647) 274-7118