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City Council voted no previously, but it's time for Body Cams in Winnipeg

While I was a Winnipeg City Council member and the former Chair of the Winnipeg Police Board, I advocated for body cameras for Winnipeg police officers. I don’t want to relitigate past issues, but unfortunately this proposal got sidetracked by excessive cost estimates, basically people wanting to spend more money than necessary to deliver something relatively basic.

Some on the left advocate against body cameras because they claim that they don’t reduce the use of force by police, but I think this is missing the point entirely.

Policing is a dangerous job, often dealing with dangerous people. The hard truth is that when there is the use of force by police, it’s most often necessary and justified, and in fact, the use of body cameras serves to confirm that police typically act with good judgment.

Body cameras are not a mechanism to limit police; they are a mechanism to preserve what happened accurately. This is actually most important from the perspective of preserving evidence for a trial, an objective accounting of what happened that can be shown to a judge or a jury.

We’ve all seen videos and news reports, particularly from the US, of police using force when they didn’t need to or using more force than was needed, to tragic effect. It’s important to note that this doesn’t represent the majority of our police officers, it doesn’t even represent a significant proportion.

Obviously, like any other profession, it’s vital to maintain high standards in policing. Body camera footage can be used to give police officers the guidance they need to improve their performance or, more rarely, to discipline or remove officers who operate outside of professional standards, particularly those who use force when it is unnecessary or use more force than is necessary.

But in most cases, body camera footage will be used to show that an officer was justified in their use of force and also to provide evidence that a crime was committed. This is important for our justice system as well as to allow the public to have confidence in our police.

Moreover, body cameras have been proven to enhance the efficiency of police work. Officers can record statements, gather evidence, and document crime scenes more effectively, which ultimately leads to more streamlined investigations and quicker resolution of cases. This efficiency is not only beneficial for the police force but also for the victims of crimes and the community at large, as it helps restore trust in the criminal justice system.

That’s why, for reasons of both digital recordkeeping in our justice system and to ensure that the public has confidence in the professional standards of our police force, Winnipeg and other cities in Manitoba should move forward with body cameras for police officers.

Obviously, we need to do this in a fiscally responsible way, and I hope that my previous interventions on council show the way on this, but let’s move forward and get this done.

Our justice system, victims of crime, and our police officers deserve the clarity that comes from body cameras for police officers.


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