Police mics 'troubling,' says constitutional lawyer
Published Wednesday, May 12, 2010 11:40AM EDT
Putting microphones on front-line police officers could improve safety and accountability but it could cost us our fundamental right to privacy, according to a Toronto constitutional lawyer.
Gerald Chan, a barrister at the Ruby and Shiller law firm, told CTV's Canada AM on Tuesday that he's most troubled with the fact that police officers could turn the wireless mic on and off at their discretion.
He said if police are able to "direct the movie", then words and actions could be taken out of context.
"There's a big difference between allowing Joe Blow on the street to record what I'm doing and putting it on Facebook, and the police doing it," he said. "Joe Blow on the street doesn't have a lot of power. A police officer on the other hand can investigate me, arrest me, throw me in jail."
He said most people are already "frightened and intimidated" when they interact with authorities and that some might feel as if police are infringing on their civil liberties by recording every moment of their conversation.
He concedes that social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube have exploded in recent years, along with the widespread use of cellphone video cameras. But Chan said that fact shouldn't lull people into a sense of complacency about having their lives recorded. Rather it should make us even more cautious.
"The fact that we've already lost so much privacy in so many aspects of our lives is reason to guard it more jealously and not a reason to put our hands up and relinquish every last bit of it," he said.
Chan said despite people's desire for truth and greater accountability, society needs to be aware of the consequences such actions would have on our rights to living a private life, free of scrutiny.
"We have to balance truth against privacy," he said. "Truth is a wonderful thing to have but it can come at too great of a cost. We can promote truth greatly and wonderfully if we installed a camera on every block and tape record everything we do but I don't think most Canadians want to live in a society like that."