#CyberFLASH: Police bodycams hit Toronto streets Monday

2014-04-11-TPS3It is seen as the natural next step in an era when surveillance cameras peer down from buildings and citizens whip out cellphones to record police. On Monday, the Toronto Police Service will join the growing ranks of police forces adopting the latest law-enforcement technology when officers head out onto the streets, cameras rolling.

By the end of May, 100 Toronto police officers across the city will be wearing the increasingly popular policing tool, part of a nearly yearlong pilot project that was a recommendation of the Toronto Police’s use-of-force review that followed the 2013 police shooting of teenager Sammy Yatim.

The small recording device — attached high on the officers’ torso, near the lapel — has a big job: to increase public accountability and enhance trust, provide an unbiased account of public interactions, augment officer and public safety, protect police from unwarranted allegations of misconduct, and more.

“I feel like it’s a very exciting project; I think this has the potential to strengthen the policing profession, and I think it has the potential to strengthen our relations with the community,” said Staff Supt. Tom Russell at a news conference unveiling the cameras Friday.

Toronto police are following forces in Vancouver, Edmonton, Thunder Bay, Hamilton and London that have already launched pilot projects experimenting with the police tool. The Calgary Police Service, one of the earliest adopters in Canada, has moved beyond the experimental stage and expanded the number of body cameras used by their officers from 50 in 2013 to 1,100 today.

But the lightning-fast expansion of the technology across Canada has also prompted a chorus of concern from privacy groups worried about everything from the tool being used as surveillance to potential privacy breaches inside private residences.

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