'Essential for democracy': Quebec police launch bodycam pilot project
MONTREAL -- Quebec’s provincial police force will deploy body cameras in four regions in a pilot project that could eventually lead to widespread usage across the province.
Over the next 12 months, 40 body cams will be in circulation across four regions: Rimouski-Neigette, Valleé-de-l’Or, Bauharnois-Saleberry, and Drummond. Nunavik’s police force is also participating in the project.
When and how those cameras will be used will vary depending on the region.
In some areas, the cameras will only begin recording when an officer clicks it on. In others, it will also be activated when a taser or firearm is unholstered. Officers in Drummond will be using cameras that can provide a live feed.
When officers use the cams will also depend on the region, whether that be for arrests, mental health calls, or other types of interventions.
Police say the project aims to allow greater transparency into policework, something several advocates have been demanding for years.
“People are asking for body cams as a way to hold the police accountable,” said Fo Niemi, executive director for the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations.
“Body cams are essential for democracy,” he said. “It will be very useful for the people who feel wronged by the police.”
A report on the findings will be available after the year-long pilot project, which Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault says she will read “with great interest.”
Tracy Wing, who’s son was shot and killed by a police officer in Lac-Brome two years ago, is worried that the report will be published, then forgotten.
"I’m just concerned with the word 'pilot,'" she said.
"It’s a good thing, I just want to make sure that they’re doing it for the right reasons, and not just to appease the population."
Wing created a petition to get Quebec’s police outfitted bodycams and dashcams after her son's death, which garnered nearly 2,000 signatures before being tabled in the National Assembly.
Without bodycam footage, nearly two years later, she says she still doesn’t know all the details leading up to the night her son died.
NO CAMS YET IN MONTREAL
Montreal’s police force carried out its own body camera pilot project in early 2019.
The report estimated it would take roughly five years and $17.4 million to equip about 3,000 front-line officers with body cameras. It would cost an additional $24 million a year to maintain the camera program, equal to 4 per cent of the force's current annual operating budget.
Ultimately, the project was rejected for being too costly.
But if cops don’t have cams, the onus falls to on the victims family and community to put the pieces together, according to Wing.
“I think each time that an individual dies at the hands of the police in a violent manner,” said Wing. “The family deserves to know what happened.”