Police officers in Toronto begin wearing body-worn cameras
TORONTO -- Police began patrolling the streets of Toronto’s Rexdale neighbourhood on Monday night wearing body-worn cameras.
"Constables Zylstra and Orth make history tonight as the first two Toronto police officers to hit the road wearing body-worn cameras,” Deputy Police Chief Shawna Coxon said in a tweet.
It’s the first step in a process that plans to outfit all front-line officers with the technology within a year.
The $34 million project was fast-tracked in the wake of demands for more police accountability, but experts say the move doesn’t go far enough.
Kiké Roach, a lawyer and the UNIFOR chair in social justice and democracy at Ryerson University, says that while the cameras provide politicians with a quick and easy answer to respond to the sustained demonstrations, they do little to affect change.
"This is a quick technological alleged fix that I don't think is going to produce the kind systemic changes that people in the community are now realizing are necessary if we are going to move away from these horrific scenes of police violence," Roach said.
But the company behind the cameras disagrees, saying the project is about transparency and accountability.
“The public doesn't really see what police officers do on a day-to-day basis and I think it gives the opportunity to give an independent witness for both the officer as well as the public to see what actually happened in the context of this situation,” Vishal Dhir of Axon told CTV News Toronto.
The TPS has ordered more than 2,000 cameras and expects each Toronto front-line officer to be wearing one while on patrol.
Trevin David, a Toronto criminal lawyer, says that past body camera pilot projects have been positive overall and that the cameras can provide an impartial view of police interactions with the community. But he urges caution nonetheless.
"On a larger level, unfortunately, what we've looked at even beyond Toronto police is that we don't really see that body-worn cameras have any real benefit in terms of stopping instances of police misconduct or claims of police misconduct, statistics don't really bare that out".