WINNIPEG, MB. - Earlier this month the Police Board along with Chief Smythe released a request for $32 million to fund body cameras on all WPS members.
After speaking with Axon, the company that would be providing these cameras and the service that comes with them, I found a number of facts that were misrepresented to the public and the media.
First, the $32 million that was quoted is to outfit ALL members of WPS including those that are behind desks. This is an unnecessary way to begin and many other police forces have shown that starting with the officers that are on the front lines is the most crucial way to protect both citizens and police. This is about 300 members.
Second, the $32 million also includes other equipment that was not communicated in their request. This practice of asking for more than they need is a common practice at the city and is deceiving the residents of Winnipeg. According to Axon, the pricing for this equipment, including software, cloud storage and camera upgrades is $550,000 per year.
Third, the request suggests that we would need to hire 16 new FTE’s to manage the system. According to Axon, the service they provide already includes reports, automated video upload and even human paid transcription. Given that we already have over 100 officers on restricted duty, some of these officers could be reallocated to these positions at no extra cost.
Many other police forces in Canada and around North America are using these body cameras with great success and it has resulted in positive feedback from the public as well. The fact that body cameras can be turned off is dealt with by tracking using the software under the plan. If a member turned his camera off in the middle of an arrest it would be dealt with as suspicious and looked into.
The WPS is suffering from a critical moral issue and many officers are dealing with mental health issues as they face hate coming from many directions. This could result in a catastrophic loss of key staff members. The cameras would help protect the integrity of those on the service.
Residents have been witnessing the unthinkable actions of some in law enforcement and have called for change. Video footage would provide accountability and is an extremely impactful evidentiary tool.