This post first appeared on VICE Canada
According to the Canadian government's directory of contracts and purchases, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Canada's equivalent to the FBI) has just bought 24 body-worn cameras as part of a pilot project to have its officers armed with video-capturing devices.
The RCMP's plan has been in the works for a while—the contract awarded in mid-October but only announced on November 28. It was a pretty timely declaration, however, as the Obama administration declared that it's ready to put up more than $260 million to get body cams onto American police officers in order to make sure encounters between cops and civilians are recorded. (Many police-reform advocates have been demanding body cams on all cops for a long time now, saying that videos would make it easier to determine whether brutality complaints are valid.)
It appears that the RCMP has awarded four contracts to firms in Newfoundland, Alberta, Michigan, and Quebec. In the RCMP's words, the pilot project aims to "determine the feasibility of implementing Body-Worn Video Cameras for front-line officers. A larger, competitive procurement may be conducted depending on the results of the feasibility study."
This pilot project apparently only requires 24 cameras, all of which will be delivered to the RCMP in Saskatchewan. It's unclear if the pilot project will be occurring in Saskatchewan specifically, or if equipment will be routed through the province's depot. The RCMP did not immediately respond to requests for comment from VICE about this project.
The company that the RCMP selected in Alberta, CruiserCam Inc., is the self-described "Canadian supplier of Patrol Witness in-car camera systems, DragonEye Speed Lidar systems, BodyCam and FLIR cameras." Aside from its body-worn cameras, CruiserCam sells dashcam rigs for police cars, which can apparently be turned off by officers. (That could be an important point, as some say that body cams that the cops can turn off at any time won't be as useful as cameras that record everything.) A full PDF brochure of CruiserCam's in-car system is available here.
According to the company's testimonials page, they've been in business with Canadian law enforcement from as early as 2007. A note from the fleet coordinator of the Miramichi Police Force in Redcliff, Alberta, reads: "Over a seven year period we gradually purchased additional camera systems from CruiserCam and currently all ten of our first response vehicles are camera equipped... [CruiserCam has provided] us with video recording products with the best service on the market."
CruiserCam sold four cameras to the RCMP, and company president Danica Prpick told VICE that while Canada is lagging behind international policing surveillance trends, " it would be really beneficial for all of them to equip themselves with this kind of equipment.
"The benefit is, of course, to police officers for complaints against them, for safety. It's for enforcement so if something happens, they've got a record of it. And the record doesn't lie... It holds people accountable. It holds police accountable."
The Toronto police are also on the lookout for a body cam provider, and anecdotally, it does seem like police officers are at least curious about the technology. One comment on the CruiserCam Facebook page reads, "This is what my department needs for us."
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