Body-Worn and In-Car Camera

Following a successful 16-month pilot program, the WRPS Police Services Board has approved the permanent deployment of both Body-Worn Camera (BWC) and In-Car Camera (ICC) systems region-wide.

The pilot determined BWC is a transparent policing tool capable of providing accurate records of our interactions with the public. Surveys of our membership involved in the pilot found high support for the technology as the pilot evolved, corroborated by the overwhelming support from our local community.

Starting in 2023, BWC will be assigned to every frontline officer by division until full deployment is reached in 2025. The rollout will begin with patrol officers at North Division, Traffic Services, Community Engagement Unit, Emergency Response Team, Canine, then at South Division, ending with officers at Central Division.

The provincial government provided extensive grant money to police services across Ontario to install Automated Licence Plate Recognition (ALPR) technology, allowing WRPS to outfit 100 front-line patrol vehicles. This technology uses cameras and software that automatically scans licence plates. It alerts officers to stolen plates, or plates registered to suspended drivers. The system can also notify officers of missing and wanted persons, as well as vehicles associated with AMBER alerts. This specific technology also provides the ability to use this ‘dash cam’ type camera as a comprehensive In-Car Camera system.

On December 14, 2022, the WRPS Board accepted this grant money and provided approval for the Service to operate a formalized ICC program region-wide using ALPR technology. This system has been rolled out and is fully integrated with BWC and our Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS).

General

 What are Body-Worn Camera systems?
Body-Worn Camera systems are devices worn by officers that record audio and video interactions between community members and police officers. The footage from BWC systems can be used to demonstrate transparency to the community and to document statements, observations, behaviours, and other evidence.
 What are In-Car Camera systems?
In-Car Camera systems are devices that are attached to a police cruiser to record audio and video for both outside facing activity and within the prisoner control area of the rear seat.
 Was the community consulted?

The pilot project included engagement and input from project stakeholders, such as community groups and outside agencies with whom the WRPS regularly interacts. Engagement with community stakeholders took place throughout the pilot program to gather feedback and input for the potential development of a permanent program.

The WRPS Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Unit assisted in connecting the Modernization Project team with community groups with a vested interest in BWC technology for direct feedback.

During the pilot, officers made information sheets available to anyone who has interacted with officers wearing a BWC device. The information sheets contained a QR code link to a voluntary survey to provide feedback on specific interactions. An online survey was also be made available to the entire community and an email address was created for the community to interact directly with a project team member to ask questions and provide further feedback.

Privacy

 How will concerns related to privacy be addressed?

BWC and ICC systems will provide police accountability while balancing privacy rights with law enforcement needs. Internal procedures have been created with the assistance of the “Model Governance Framework for Police Body-Worn Cameras in Ontario” developed by the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. These clear procedures will ensure proper, consistent and credible use of BWC and ICC technology.

A Privacy Impact Assessment has been initiated by the Service to assess compliance with the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA). Compliance is an essential foundation to protecting the right of privacy.  

This assessment focuses on the collection, use, retention, disclosure, security and disposal of personal information for both technology systems.  It also identifies the actual/potential effects BWC & ICC may have on an individual’s privacy and supports informed decision-making. 

 What safeguards are in place to ensure the privacy rights of people who have been recorded?

The Service has taken significant steps to ensure the security of the video once it has been recorded.  These include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Recordings are encrypted when captured;
  • Recordings cannot be edited, altered, or deleted from the video device;
  • Secure and encrypted uploading occurs from the video device to storage system;
  • Security authentication steps are in place to ensure only those with authorized access can view recordings once they are uploaded;
  • Development of automatic purging of videos based on established retention schedules; and,
  • Redaction abilities for recordings are required for disclosure purposes.
 If I am recorded, am I allowed to watch the video? Can I ask that it be deleted?
Any request to view the data must be made through the WRPS Access to Information Unit and is governed by the relevant provisions of MFIPPA.  Videos will only be deleted in accordance with retention periods. 

A member of the public and/or their representative(s) may be allowed to view BWC and ICC recordings that capture an incident in which they were involved for certain purposes, such as:

  • As required, consistent with and to assist in the investigation of a matter (e.g., to assist in identification, as part of an interview, witness preparation); and
  • When attempting to informally resolve a complaint or potential complaint into the conduct of a WRPS member; such viewing will be at the discretion of the Professional Standards Branch Inspector.

What if I am an innocent bystander and a Body-Worn Camera or In-Car Camera system records me?

Officers will make every reasonable effort to capture only the relevant incident for which the BWC and ICC systems are in operation. Specific redaction tools are applied to blur out parts of the video and/or audio, if required, which could compromise personal information and the privacy of members and the public. 

Does the technology have facial recognition?

No. Body-worn and in-car cameras do not automatically identify individuals using facial recognition or compare images to any database.

Procedure

 Will the video be released for other means? For training? To the media?
 It is expected that some incidents captured by the BWC and ICC systems could be used by WRPS to improve performance and to provide necessary training.  There are restrictions and process within procedure that dictate when videos can be used for this purpose, including closed investigation/court proceeding and consultation with the WRPS Access to Information Unit to ensure all necessary vetting has been completed to protect the privacy of all individuals.

Unlike other jurisdictions, there are significant privacy implications in Canada and Ontario that govern any Canadian police agency’s ability to release footage from the BWC and ICC systems. If it was determined that a video may protect the public and/or further an investigation, it may be vetted for release in the same way security videos are released.  In every case, the privacy of victims and uninvolved members of the public will always be considered.

 How will I know if a BWC system is “on” during my interaction with an officer?
All officers will wear the Body-Worn Camera system in plain view.  The BWC device has an indicator light when actively recording.  Officers will be required, when possible, to advise individuals that they are speaking with at the earliest opportunity that their BWC system is recording.  The timing of this notice may vary depending on the context of the encounter. 
What will happen if someone asks for the video to be turned off?

The only time a request to turn off a Body-Worn Camera system will be actioned is when an officer has entered a private residence or place and the owner/occupant does not provide consent to record. 

Officers will be permitted to activate the BWC systems under exigent circumstances when consent is not provided. 

 When will the BWC system be turned on and turned off?

An officer will turn on the Body-Worn Camera system prior to arriving at a call for service; when they start investigating an individual; or, whenever they are enforcing the law.  The video will be used to capture investigative and enforcement activities and is not to be used to carry out general surveillance surreptitiously.  

An officer will turn off the Body-Worn Camera system when the call for service, investigation, or enforcement is complete.  An officer is also allowed to turn the video off for the following reasons:

  1. Policing activities that are not investigative or enforcement in nature;
  2. During Strip Searches;
  3. Administrative conversations not related to investigations or enforcement;
  4. When using or discussing confidential police investigative techniques and/or procedures;
  5. When information recorded would endanger the life or physical safety of an officer or any other person;
  6. In a courthouse - except in exigency or legal authority; and
  7. Indigenous/Religious/Spiritual Ceremonies - unless required for an investigative or enforcement purpose or permission is granted.

How do the police manage the initial contact with a victim, patient, uninvolved staff or other member of the public?  

Officers will be trained to be aware of interactions with the public that may be sensitive in nature, such as when children are present, during a sexual assault or domestic violence investigation, or when a person is in a state of undress.  Body-Worn Video systems will typically not be used in hospitals, places of worship, schools, etc.  Recording in private locations is only permitted with permission or in exigent circumstances.

What training will officers undergo prior to using the system?

Officers will receive on use of the equipment as well as training on procedures related to privacy, security, retention, redaction, and storage of the footage gathered from the video systems from Service experts. A portion of this training was created based on the Governance Framework produced by the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.

Is there a policy or procedure that governs how officers use the technology?

Yes, a procedure has been created and approved to govern the use of this technology.  It provides officers with operational direction that includes, but is not limited to, recording in private and public places; retention and security of videos; and responsibilities for supervisors and Senior Leaders.  
 What happens if the officer doesn’t follow procedure?
The Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS) has established organizational-wide controls to ensure secure storage, transfer, and disposal of all recordings created by the BWC & ICC system (including records containing audio, video files and meta-data). These controls govern any wrongful access, attempts to defeat security measures, and inappropriate or personal use of this infrastructure.

Like any other allegation of misconduct for non-compliance with a procedure, complaint investigations can be initiated by the Chief of Police or made to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD).  Once substantiated, officers may face any number of disciplinary actions, up to and including dismissal. 

 Will officers be able to watch the video whenever they choose?

Officers will be assigned their own Body-Worn Camera system and will have the capability to only watch video recorded from their own personal unit.  Other investigative units will have the capability of reviewing the footage for investigative needs as required only.  There are strict auditing measures in place that track who opens and watches any video.

Storage and Security

 How long will the Body-Worn Camera data be stored?
BWC that is not being used as evidence to support a prosecution will be retained for a 30 month period, which takes into consideration the current civil limitation period of 24 months plus the time to serve a claim of 6 months.  If the video footage is required as evidence in a court proceeding, then the footage will be retained in accordance with existing evidence retention periods.  
 Where will the Body-Worn Camera data be stored?
WRPS is participating in the Ministry of the Solicitor General’s provincial program that will be introducing a standardized digital evidence management system to all police services across the province using a Canadian cloud-based storage system.  The data will be stored within this system.

How will the data from the Body-Worn Camera systems be downloaded?

At the end of every shift, officers will dock their BWV systems into porting stations in their unit/division.  Once docked, the data will automatically be uploaded to the cloud-based storage system.

Who will be able to access the Body-Worn Camera data?

Strict controls have been developed to govern who has access to the video footage.  The recording officer will have access to their own video data, along with their supervisor (for auditing purposes) and some officers from specialized investigative units.   Anyone else who is required to view the video will submit a formal request for access.  This process comes with a robust auditing and tracking system.

Who is permitted to edit the Body-Worn Camera data?

Recorded data cannot be altered or deleted at any time by the recording officer.  Members of the Digital Disclosure Team, a centralized file preparation unit, will be permitted to redact the Body-Worn and In-Car Camera data, as per Service procedures covering video recordings for court disclosure purposes. The original, unedited version will always remain in the cloud-based storage system. 

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