In March 2023, the Alberta Government mandated the use of body worn cameras by all police officers. Working towards this mandate, the EPS is set to begin a six-month trial of body worn cameras starting next week. In total, 35 officers working with Transit and Community Safety Teams, the Healthy Streets Operations Centre Community Safety Teams (CST) and the High-Risk Encampment Teams (HRET) will wear cameras. The EPS will trial various technologies to determine what capabilities best meet the organization’s needs and will then issue a request for proposal to select the most suitable vendor.
The goals of body worn cameras are multifaceted, but overall aim to create a more efficient accountability process and reduce use of force incidents for both officers and the public. Some of the anticipated outcomes include increasing transparency, reducing unfounded allegations of police misconduct, increasing public trust and confidence in the EPS and enhancing officer accountability and professionalism.
“We’ve heard from many of our members that they are looking forward to wearing cameras and are hopeful that it will improve officer safety by affecting the behavior of the individuals they interact with and subsequently deescalating situations,” says Superintendent Derek McIntyre with the EPS Crime Suppression and Investigations Division.
“Video can be a helpful and beneficial tool for all parties in police interactions and will hopefully also assist investigators by improving evidence collection, documentation, early case resolution and successful prosecution.”
The teams selected were intentional, as they will provide a broad snapshot of a large and varying number of police interactions in complex environments with citizens from various communities. This will allow the EPS to assess the operational impacts of the cameras and identify any gaps and areas for improvements, such as what resources and processes are needed to support an effective program service wide.
“In addition, these teams will allow us to trial the cameras while working closely with our many valued community partners whose feedback on how we implement them is important.”
What to expect
Citizens interacting with officers on these teams will notice a camera affixed to the front of their uniforms. The cameras are approximately the size of a deck of playing cards and officers will begin recording when they start a public interaction such as when they start investigating an individual; or when they are asking a person questions for the purpose of collecting their information. While not legally required to do so, officers will do their best to advise citizens when they are being recorded.
The camera will be turned off at the conclusion of an officer’s interaction with the public or when they determine that continuous recording is no longer serving its intended purpose. At the end of every shift, all officers will dock their cameras and footage will automatically be uploaded to a designated secure storage location. Recorded data cannot be altered or deleted at any time, and all footage will be logged and submitted as part of disclosure to the Crown when charges are laid.
“We understand the public may have privacy concerns regarding body worn camera use and we want to assure citizens that all draft EPS policy, procedure and training related to the cameras incorporates and speaks to the applicable legislation,” says McIntyre.
Body worn cameras are subject to Sections 33C and 33B of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act which authorizes the collection of information from the public. The Health Information Act will also apply when officers are present in healthcare facilities.
The EPS ran a body worn camera trial project from October 2011 through December 2014, with operational testing in a variety of environments to assess its value and capabilities. At that time, the project indicated there were several concerns with the technology, data management and impact on complaints and use of force incidents. Since then, advancements have improved the technology and it is now better suited to operational and investigative needs.
In 2022, the EPS also began trialing in-car cameras with a limited number of police vehicles. This trail has been put on hold as resources pivoted to body worn cameras. Upon conclusion of the body worn camera trial, both camera types will be evaluated together to determine how the technologies may be best used at EPS.
For more information on body worn cameras, citizens are encouraged to view the frequently asked questions section on our website.