People pulled over during traffic stops and in other interactions with police could soon find themselves captured on video.
The Abbotsford Police Department (APD) is in the preliminary stages of equipping its fleet of vehicles with in-car digital video cameras. Const. Ian MacDonald said nine cars – five in traffic and four in patrol – are currently equipped with the devices, but they are not yet operational.
The APD has 33 patrol vehicles and five traffic cars, but it’s not yet known how many of them in total will eventually contain the equipment.
MacDonald said the department has been considering the matter for about the last year, but there are still many details to be worked out, including budgeting and the policies surrounding the use of the cameras.
He said the instruments will serve a useful purpose.
“Technology is part of the world, and it’s a reality for police … If there is an opportunity to gather the best evidence, we need to be part of it,” he said.
RCMP detachments throughout B.C. and the Integrated Road Safety Unit have been using the cameras in their traffic cars for the last year or two.
Cpl. Jamie Chung, with the RCMP’s E division traffic services, said they have been particularly helpful in impaired driving cases.
“What better way to show a judge that a guy was drunk than when you can show a video that he was staggering all over the place.”
The audio portion can also capture slurring or threatening words and the belligerence of an aggressive suspect.
Chung said such footage eases the court system because many people plead guilty knowing that such hard evidence exists, saving the time and expense of a trial.
He said the equipment can also verify circumstances when there is a complaint about an officer’s conduct.
“We want to get to the truth in every case,” he said.
The RCMP opted to install the cameras only in its traffic vehicles because that made the most fiscal sense, Chung said. Patrol cars are often deployed to situations – such as domestic disturbances – in which an in-car camera serves no purpose.
Neither MacDonald nor Chung could confirm the costs of the cameras. However, the Delta Police Department (DPD) received a one-time grant in 2009 to purchase and install the devices in five cars. The grant amounted to $36,500.
MacDonald said he could not give a timeline for when the cameras will be operational.