Kelowna RCMP are testing the use of small video cameras on selected RCMP constables. Is it ironic or intentional that this technology test comes just months after RCMP Constable Geoff Mantler was caught on camera brutally kicking Buddy Tavares in the face?
On Monday, June 6th RCMP Constable Steve Holmes announced that six local constables with digital video cameras have been videotaping police interaction with the public for the past two weeks. The cameras are small, and can attach to a constable's jacket or helmet.
Kelowna RCMP Const. Michael Dunn thinks the use of officer-specific video recordings will help the public understand what police go through.
"It will give the public an idea of what officers deal with on a daily basis," he said.
It's not what the police go through that concerns me. It's what they do to citizens when there is nobody watching.
Constable Geoff Mantler didn't know he was being recorded when he launched his brutal kick to Buddy Tavares' face. Mantler's attitude took a 180 degree shift the instant he realized he'd been caught on tape though, didn't it?
David Eby, the BC Civil Liberties Association's executive director isn't thrilled with some aspects of the new system though. He's seen too many cases of RCMP seizing, hiding, and destroying video footage that, to put it politely, would make the RCMP look bad.
Eby pointed out that in 2008 Prince George mounties either intentionally destroyed or deliberately took steps to avoid preserving video that would show them in a bad light. The more infamous example is where the RCMP seized video from Paul Pritchard that recorded the tazering death of Robert Dziekanski. They refused to return the video to him until he threatened them with a lawsuit. Only after that threat did they finally release the video to him.
Given the RCMP's lousy history with video footage, it's pretty clear there are issues that must be dealt with.
Can the cameras be turned on and off at the individual RCMP constable's discretion? If they can, then all this does is add to the issue of police accountability, not subtract from it.
Will the public have access to the recordings on demand? What safeguards will be in place to prevent a repeat of Prince George in 2008?
If the RCMP is left in control of the recordings, then we've already seen how they'll approach it. They'll release video that makes them look good, and destroy that which does not. The 2008 Prince George incident makes that pretty clear, and their handling of Pritchard's video, returning it only under threat of a lawsuit shows the RCMP has no interest in releasing video that shows their members acting atrociously.
That willingness to toss the public under the bus to save their own doesn't serve the RCMP very well. It just adds fuel to the already blazing fire of public distrust of our national police force.