Mayor John Tory is fast tracking the rollout of body worn cameras for Toronto police this year.
On Monday, Tory said he wants to “modernize our police service” and have the “most accountable police service in Canada” that is free of bias.
“That is why I have approved the implementation of body cameras last year and want to fast track the rollout of the cameras this year,” he said.
Making police more accountable
His comments come after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is committed to discussing police body cameras with provinces this week.
Earlier on Monday, Trudeau said he spoke to RCMP commissioner Brenda Lucki and said they discussed the adoption of body cameras.
“I am committing to raise this with provinces this week so we can move on it as quickly as possible,” said Trudeau.
The prime minister said he wants “concrete actions” to move forward on systemic discrimination and making real change in Canada.
“With the many disturbing reports of violence against Black Canadians and Indigenous people, we know that we need to do much more and we need to do it now,” he said, adding that his government is going for “real commitments as quickly as possible that address the root causes of these problems.”
In Toronto, over 101,000 people have signed a petition to demand the Toronto Police wear and turn on body cameras when responding to incidents.
The petition is calling to hold police officers accountable for their actions.
“If there is no footage to prove the brutality, justice will not be served,” the petition says.
The petition is for Chief Mark Saunders to speed up the protocol for officers to wear body cameras.
“There has been years of “pilot testing” and now with Regis Korchinski-Paquets death, a change has to be made,” it reads.
The petition is looking for a total of 150,000 signatories.
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The program has been in the works for sometime
In 2016, a pilot program was done to try out the lapel cameras, with it being green-lit to become a part of police practice.
“The members of our board said to rollout out the program,” Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association told Daily Hive. “It’s taken so long because of funding and allocating resources.”
But, all of that it set to change this year.
According to the Toronto Police Service Board, the majority of the program cost will be in the 2020 operating budget with the service planning on implementing the program in the third quarter of this year — the funding required is included in the Service’s approved 2020 operating budget.
“There will also be some capital budget requirements in 2020 and 2021 for infrastructure, cameras and other requirements depending on the solution selected. The cost of these requirements is provided for in the Service’s approved 2020-2029 capital program,” the capital budget variance report states, which was given to the police board.
The selection of the final vendor and contract negotiations will be in 2020 and the the project team will be engaging with the necessary stakeholders such as City Legal and other “internal and external partners” to rollout the program.
In December 2019, Saunders said he was looking at having body-worn camera into play by the end of the year.
“I think those are things that are all necessary if we’re going to get it right for building the trust and accountability,” he said during a conference at the time.
The benefits of reallocating the budget
On June 4, Jamil Javani the Government of Ontario’s Advocate for Community Opportunities, said to look at the direction of Saunders during these times.
He added that the term “distrust” is the right lens to view the relationship between policing and the Black community.
“There is distrust in the community and rightfully so,” Javani said.
“Police are overly present in the lives of Black people when it comes to stopping and questioning and the use of force. Overtime it has overgrown into a deep and genuine concern that a lot of Black people in North America and Ontario have about police officers.”
For Javani, he said he grew up feeling a lot of tension with cops, which was “defeating” as he felt “less part of society and less welcome here.”
When discussing the issue of funding and allocating resources within the police departments, he acknowledged there is “room for conversation” on how to better spend resources.
“There are conversations on if resources can be wisely used elsewhere,” he said.
He added that local municipalities need to discuss what is the best use of their budget and that policing is a nuanced area for policy making.
For McCormack the cameras are “not a magic pill that will cure everything” and while they might provide the public with some peace of mind, there are still issues to be aware of like, privacy rights and victims rights.
“You have to take what you see in context,” he added.
And, that when worn, it must be mandatory for all officers.
“If it’s not mandatory it becomes a subjective test. You don’t want to run the risk of police being selective.”