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Canadian Cops Are Finally Looking to Buy Body-Worn Cameras

The cameras are usually lauded as effective ways to prevent police brutality, discourage use of force, and facilitate prosecution if the officer is accused of wrongdoing.

by Justin Ling
Nov 26 2015, 8:28pm

Image via Flickr Creative Commons

After years of study, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police seem set to outfit their officers with body-worn cameras.

While it is still looking for companies to buy the cameras from, it appears as though the RCMP might already have one in mind — American law enforcement giant Taser International.

The cameras are usually lauded as effective ways to prevent police brutality, discourage use of force, and facilitate prosecution if the officer is accused of wrongdoing. They've also been popular in parts of the law enforcement community because they help weed out unfounded accusation against officers.

When the RCMP was piloting the program last year, they purchased the test cameras from Canadian-based supplier CruiserCam.

It seems as though the RCMP wasn't happy with the company, because they just posted a new Request for Information (RFI), looking for a new company to do business with.

"To date, no camera has been identified that meets all of the RCMP's needs," the RFI reads. "The cameras that have been researched and tested have issues with battery life and durability. Additionally, the cameras do not always adequately capture the incident due to mounting difficulties."

While the RFI is not a solicitation — meaning that no contract will come from it, although an actual invitation for bids may come down the line — documents filed by the RCMP suggest that they may be looking at Taser, maker of the Taser stun gun.

Related: It's Impossible To Find Out Exactly How Many People Are Shot By Cops in Canada

Documents filed this month show that Pierre Perron, the Assistant Commissioner for the RCMP and the force's Chief Information Officer, had a meeting with six executives from Evidence.com, a division of Taser.

The RCMP shelled out $120 for the meeting, which took place in Ottawa in June.

Taser, through Evidence.com, is looking to capitalize on the North American market after the events in Ferguson and elsewhere put police brutality and use of force at the forefront of a national debate on race relations in America.

The body-cam model, dubbed the Axon, meets seemingly every condition set out in the RFI — everything from being able to withstand "extreme weather conditions" to its 64gb storage.

One question the government has for prospective suppliers is how the video footage makes it from the officer's gear to the RCMP's computers.

"What is the capacity for the officer to start/stop recording? ... Does recorded footage automatically upload to management software?" the RFI asks prospective clients.

Obviously, if footage is beamed directly to the RCMP's system, it removes the ability of a rogue officer, or a criminal, to destroy or delete the footage.

The Axon uploads all the footage from the Axon to its web-hosting partner, Amazon Web Services.

VICE News asked the RCMP for comment about the RFI, and about Evidence.com, but has yet to receive a response.

Related: Police Have Killed At Least 1,083 Americans Since Michael Brown's Death

Taser has gone directly to police to make their pitch for the Axon before.

"If we don't have events from our perspective — and our perspective is the most important perspective — we're not doing our personnel any favors. Now we can control the message and the news through body camera," former Albuquerque Chief of Police Raymond Schultz said at a Taser marketing event held in Ottawa in December, 2014.

Schultz's comments were reported by Reveal, a website operated by the Center for Investigative Reporting. They report that Schultz was investigated by the state of New Mexico for working as a consultant with Taser while still serving as police chief. Taser won a sole-sourced contract for the Axon body-cams in Albuquerque.

In Ottawa, clear conflict-of-interest rules would prevent any such influence on the procurement process, but it does underline Taser's interest in getting deals inked with Evidence.com.

Reports from Canada's lobbyist registry show that Taser employed Ottawa lobbying firm Hill & Knowlton from 2007 to 2010, but lists no meetings with any government officials. The meeting between Assistant Commissioner Perron and the company's executives is not listed.

Follow Justin Ling on Twitter: @justin_ling 

Image via Flickr user Utility, Inc.