Altona police now wearing body cameras
WINNIPEG -- Altona police is hoping a new piece of equipment attached to officers will help build public trust and increase transparency within the police force.
The force has adapted body worn cameras that run through an app on their phone.
The phone sits on their chest and officers will use the cameras to record interactions with the public during their shift.
Altona Police Chief Perry Batchelor said the app is to be activated when officers show up for their shift and it is supposed to be turned off when their shift is over.
"I've been researching this for a number of years. I've sat through many, many meetings with lots of law enforcement," said Batchelor. "I really cannot find a downside."
He added there are cameras everywhere nowadays, but he thinks it is important to have the officer’s perspective.
Batchelor said when the officers start recording, the app will say a recording has started and it will also say when a recording has stopped.
Once the video has finished recording, it won't upload until the phone is connected to Wi-Fi at which it will go to the cloud.
The chief added there is no way for an officer to edit the video.
"(When it stops recording), at that point it is secure. They cannot go back in and view. It has to go to the cloud first and then they can view."
Another feature to this app is it has GPS, which allows the police department to track the routes of all officers and know where they have been on their shift and for how long.
The app, which was created by Visual Labs in the United States, cost $60 per month per device, which Batchelor said totals around $4,500 a year.
He said the new technology is worth every penny as it can help police in so many ways.
"We did have an arrest recently where the person that was arrested indicated that at the time of the arrest, there was a very expensive piece of jewelry involved and that person was wondering when they could have that jewelry back," said Batchelor. He told the person they had body cameras and would check the footage to see if they were wearing it and he said when he brought up the cameras the person dropped the complaint about the missing jewelry.
He added that this helps protect the officers, but also ensures they stay professional and it can help de-escalate situations.
"It increases professionalism, it increases professional behaviour," he said, "To a certain degree it will help to mitigate an angry citizen when they are told this encounter is video recorded. It does help bring some temperatures down."
Batchelor said the force has had these cameras in place since January after they did a test with them in the back half of 2020.
Altona police has signed a one-year contract with Visual Labs for this equipment.