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CLA statement on the use of body-worn cameras

Nearly 200 years ago, Sir Robert Peel authored his “Nine Principles of Policing”, which serve as the foundation for policing in Canada and much of the developed world today. All nine generally stand on the foundation expressed in Principle #7: “Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police.” Recent events have highlighted that the relationship between the police and the public needs attention. Many ideas have been proposed that aim to rebuild, rehabilitate and restore it.

The Criminal Lawyers’ Association (Ontario) believes that the careful and measured use of technology is one important step that must be taken in this regard. More specifically, the CLA calls for all law enforcement personnel to adopt the mandatory use of body-camera technology and in-car camera and audio technology, for use by all its members that interact with the public. The use of this technology helps ensure that all those members of the public who interact with law enforcement personnel, as well as the officers themselves, are all duly held accountable for their conduct, as captured and measured through the objective lens of technology.

With that said, the routine recording of all such interactions poses a significant risk to the privacy interests of many individual members of the public, particularly if it were coupled with facial recognition technology. We do not envision robocops on our streets. Police officers need to be an interactive and positive force that serve the public and earn respect and cooperation. 

Further, we recognize that body-cameras cost money. A prevalent call of protesters has been for the defunding of police. In other words, calls for re-allocation of police budget money to social services better aimed at preventing and responding to the jobs currently thrown at officers. The Criminal Lawyers’ Association (Ontario) understands that resultantly, there is a friction present with the suggestion of body cams. As such, we recommend that the budget for these come from the existing budget given to police. We see the wisdom in giving the current policing budget a careful look, with an aim of moving that money from inflated police budgets to programs that have been statistically proven to help make our communities safer.  

Deeds do in fact, speak. 

John Struthers, CLA President
Boris Bytensky, CLA Treasurer, Co-Chair, CLA Criminal Law and Technology Committee
Jill Presser, Co-Chair, CLA Criminal Law and Technology Committee

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