Wearing cameras by the police? Some citizens already have
François Ducas and his wife, Karine Frechette.
Before leaving Repentigny for Montreal, teacher François Ducas, who had a run-in with the City of Repentigny Police Department (SPVR), had equipped his own car with cameras to drive around, go to work or grocery shopping, in order to collect evidence (video) against police patrols.
The Montrealer was tired of being stopped for no reason, even in front of his students, at the exit of his school. He went so far as to file a complaint against the City of Repentigny and won his case in 2022. The latter was paid the sum of $8,000 in compensation.
He says he feels better in Montreal now, but Mr. Ducas does not part with his image-taking device.
“I always have my camera in my car, he said in an interview with Metro, except that I drive less because I work near my home. The only person driving is my spouse, then she is white.”
In a report released last Friday, the Ministry of Public Security (MSP) recommends that the Quebec government deploy portable cameras in all police teams in the province.
Transparency and confidence
The MSP mentions at least four aspects that wearing a camera would frame in the context of racial profiling, in particular: police arrest; the interception of a person's vehicle without an offense being detected; the presence of a risk of death or serious injury to a person in the context of a police intervention; the use of force against a person.
“It will prevent the police from lying, from abusing. There, they will feel a little more watched. It’s good,” says François Ducas.
From the point of view of the MSP, it is above all a question of clarity in police work but also for the ordinary citizen.
“It is reasonable to believe that the four types of events selected would largely meet the expectations of the police community and the public in terms of transparency and trust,” the report states.
Fo Niémi, the director general of the Center for Action Research on Race Relations (CRARR), speaks of a very well prepared document with a lot of detail and welcomes it. His organization helps victims of racial profiling to file a complaint before the Ethics Commission or the Human Rights Commission.
“The recommendations are very encouraging and positive. I believe that this is an inevitable direction for Quebec,” said the head of CRARR.
Montreal, more favorable
The administration of Mayor Valérie Plante agrees with the idea of wearing the camera. In addition, the new police chief, Fady Dagher, who led the first project in this direction in 2015-2016 within the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM), is also in favor of it.
Some 78 officers from Plateau-Mont-Royal, Lachine and Montreal North, as well as metro patrol officers and police officers assigned to road safety, took part in it for about a year. And the City, at the time, nevertheless considered that the results were not conclusive.
In addition, Mr. Dagher has just arrived from the Longueuil police department, where he has set up a similar pilot project.
“We are increasingly in a monitored, filmed society. Citizens, for some time now, have had the right to film the interventions”, notes Fo Niémi, who nevertheless says that he understands the authorities' hesitations, given the costs of deploying such a project.
The MSP and its plan B
We are talking about operating costs in the range of 20 to 200 million dollars. The MSP is already concerned that the government will not go ahead with the recommendations and is talking about a plan B, if any.
“If the Quebec government decides not to go ahead with the deployment scenario described, the MSP should still produce a framework for the use of portable cameras for police organizations by guiding principles”, indicates the report.
The MSP's premise is that the use of cameras will have a low impact on police workload and a reasonable impact on the administration of justice.
The report does, however, have reservations on the tangible effects that have not currently been demonstrated on:
• the number of use of force events;
• the number of complaints to police ethics;
• the outcome of trials, although the duration could be reduced in some cases;
• the increase in the conf ance;
• changes in the interaction between the police and the citizen.