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Nova Scotia RCMP officers to wear body cameras as part of national test run

Seven RCMP detachments in Nova Scotia, including Chester, Digby, New Minas, North Sydney, Pictou, Stellarton and Yarmouth rural, will test body cameras as part of a nationwide program. (David Bell/CBC - image credit)
Seven RCMP detachments in Nova Scotia, including Chester, Digby, New Minas, North Sydney, Pictou, Stellarton and Yarmouth rural, will test body cameras as part of a nationwide program. (David Bell/CBC - image credit)

Some RCMP officers in Nova Scotia will start wearing body-worn cameras next week as part of a national field test of the devices.

Sixty officers from seven detachments across the province including Chester, Digby, New Minas, North Sydney, Pictou, Stellarton and Yarmouth rural, will be testing the technology.

The cameras will record audio and video, which will be uploaded and stored in digital files, according to a news release by the RCMP on Thursday.

If the field tests are deemed a success in Nova Scotia — and in Nunavut and Alberta, where testing is also taking place —  body-worn cameras and the digital storage system will become a national standard for all general duty front-line RCMP officers in Canada. The RCMP says the national rollout would take approximately 12 to 18 months.

Dan Jardine/CBC
Dan Jardine/CBC

Chief Supt. Sue Black of the Nova Scotia RCMP says this project is a result of "public calls for increased accountability and transparency in policing."

"There are many positives to [body-worn cameras]," said Black. "Not only for the accountability and transparency, but it also gives us insight, and the public as well, into officer behaviour, performance, conduct."

Black says having audio and video recordings will help resolve public complaints more quickly.

Privacy concerns

The National Police Federation, which represents RCMP officers across the country, released a statement in January 2021 that acknowledged the benefits of body-worn cameras, but expressed concerns about privacy.

"We are also aware of very real privacy issues at play and want to be sure that this new tool won't encumber our members, interfere with their core police work, or compromise their safety in any way," federation president Brian Sauvé said in the release.

Dan Zakreski/CBC
Dan Zakreski/CBC

Fabrice de Dongo, spokesperson for the federation, said Thursday that matters of privacy remain a top concern.

Another concern is that "thorough policies and training, developed in consultation with the NPF, are put in place that clearly define when the devices may or must be activated, and why," de Dongo said.

Black said officers are expected to turn the cameras on when they reach their destination on a call.

"Seatbelt off, camera on," she said

"On arriving to a scene, that's when the recording will start, and it will conclude when the police officer feels that the highest-risk portion, when it comes to officer conduct and use of force, will have concluded," said Black.

She said this policy was made in consultation with communities across Canada, and across Nova Scotia, too.

In terms of privacy, a very limited number of people will have access to recorded video, and it will be stored in a "central repository that is very highly managed," according to Black.

Black said she talked to the officers who will be using the devices on Thursday and the feedback has been "very positive" so far.

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