Council Policy on Body Worn Cameras

Over the past year, Cobourg Police have implemented a program for Police Officers to wear Body Worn Cameras (BWCs).  The Town separately employs By-Law enforcement officers and the Police agreed to provide 3 BWCs to the town for use by these officers.  The cost to the Town will be $3,907 per year.  These cameras are intended to protect both the Public and Officers when there is public interaction and they are not turned on 100% of the time.  In fact officers must advise the public when they are operating.  The Police have a web page that explains Police usage and at the next Committee of the Whole Meeting on 15 August, Council will be asked to approve a comprehensive 11 page Policy governing their use by By-Law officers.

Cobourg Police BWC
Cobourg Police BWC

Given the number of rules in the Policy, it’s clear that officers will need training – and this is planned.

Cobourg’s BWC Policy Highlights

Purpose of Policy

  • Improve the transparency of the Town with regards to any potential allegations of discreditable conduct, improper conduct, or other types of misconduct by staff.
  • Protecting individuals’ right to privacy by limiting access to recordings from body-worn cameras to the greatest extent possible and to as few people as possible.

Use of BWCs

  • Officers shall activate their BWC as soon as reasonably possible, prior to arriving at a call for service
  • Officers can deactivate their BWC once the interaction with the public is complete.
  • Protect individuals’ right to privacy by limiting access to recordings from body-worn cameras to the greatest extent possible and to as few people as possible.
  • Officers shall not intentionally prevent the BWC from capturing video or audio during an interaction with a member of the public with the sole exception of temporarily covering the lens to protect the dignity of an individual during situations of a sensitive nature (e.g. nudity!)

The BWCs shall not generally be used to record:

  • Communications with other Town staff
  • When on break or otherwise in personal activities.
  • In any location where individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a restroom or locker room.

Other rules

  • No officer shall use a BWC to intercept communications that they are not party to.
  • Officers must wherever possible inform members of the public that they are being recorded at the earliest opportunity during an interaction.
  • The Town will post its BWC Policy on its web site plus how to complain and other information
  • Recordings will be kept for 60 days or 2 years if used in an investigation.

The rules are based on work done in other Municipalities (notably Toronto) and are no doubt similar to Police rules.

Since Council have already approved deployment of BWCs to By-Law Officers, it’s expected that Council will approve the Policy.

Resources

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10 Comments
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Dave
17 August 2022 12:51 pm

Body Cams protect both the police and public. “Just the facts Maam” (or sir, as the case may be) It is all recorded.

Deborah OConnor
15 August 2022 12:55 am

Whatever happened to the motto “to serve and protect”? There’s nothing in that which suggests
surveillance. It is an outrage that fits right in with “Fahrenheit 451”. Google it; written by Ray Bradbury.

Kevin
Reply to  Deborah OConnor
15 August 2022 8:06 am

Deborah, George Orwell’s 1984 with Big Brother always watching is also an example of the state surveilling/controlling citizens. Some believe police go too far when arresting people. The cameras might help protect people in such situations. Maybe the cameras will protect the police from false accusations. Examples of police brutality are readily available. Not all police officers use excessive force. It is a sad situation that some think these cameras are necessary. Maybe nurses, who I have been told are hit at work, should have cameras. How many of us have Google/Siri/Alexa listening to everything we do in our homes now? Police with cameras could be a step toward a dystopia like “1984” or “Fahrenheit 451.” I hope not.

Gerinator
14 August 2022 2:23 pm

I’m all in for BWCs. More cameras the better, I feel. Concerns over privacy are yesterdays worry, boat has sailed, GPS on our phones are not to get anywhere they are for letting someone know where, and when, YOU were somewhere, etc.

Gerinator
14 August 2022 2:20 pm

Hey John is “The cost to the Town will be $3,907 per year.” for the total qty of 3 units?

cornbread
14 August 2022 9:41 am

How about cameras and recorders on our politicians…could be interesting.

Eastender
13 August 2022 6:21 pm

Great news! Fully support BWC usage in Cobourg……but.
what are the penalties if the officers do not follow the rules, didn’t record
the incident, failed to have the batteries charged, etc?
Happens frequently, as we all know.

Chief Paul VandeGraaf
Reply to  Eastender
14 August 2022 10:31 am

Good morning. We have had amazing compliance and I see no reason for this to change. Our officers are professionals, and have embraced this change. I am happy to discuss this with personally if you wish!

Eastender
Reply to  Chief Paul VandeGraaf
16 August 2022 7:29 am

I am very happy about your reply, and your confidence.