Thousands of Montrealers want their police officers to be outfitted with body cameras. An online petition has gained well over 40,000 signatures and counting. The conversation surrounding police body cameras in Montreal has been a contentious one, with the city's official opposition party Ensemble Montreal blaming the Plante administration for a "lack of leadership" on this issue. 

The CBC reported on June 3 that the mayor supports giving officers cameras.

When an almost-yearlong pilot study, conducted 2016-2017 and submitted to the city's public security commission in 2019, was said to be too expensive to implement more widely, the movement to put mandatory body cameras on SPVM officers came to a grinding halt. 

The SPVM said that the cameras have "little impact" on police interventions.

The 78 officers piloting the body cams reported incidents requiring the use of force a total of 19 times during the study (.24 times per officer).

Comparatively, 278 other officers who did not wear cameras  reported the use of force 97 times (.35 times per officer).

These figures were compared to those of the year prior to the study. Use of force went up 12% among the group with the cameras and 64% in the group without them. 

The report highlighted the difficulty of switching on cameras in situations where force was used; only 42% of the 19 recorded incidents were caught on camera. 

Officers also noted that they feel as if they're being watched. 

Wearing body cameras is one of many measures proposed by people who are concerned with police brutality. 

The author of the petition for body cameras states: "This petition has been created to bring transparency to citizens, law enforcement and the courts onto the conduct of police conduct and brutality."

The petition aims to enter into law that "all on-duty officers require these functioning mandatory body cameras in order to perform their duties as an officer of the law."

"In other words, no camera, no public interaction."

The recent anti-racism protests in the United States and Canada have renewed the public debate about body cameras. 

Montreal's pilot project report gave the body camera project a $17.4-million price tag.

The Journal de Montréal recently reported that a $450,000 purchase of assault weapons has been approved for the SPVM.

Last year's shocking racial profiling report on the SPVM brought awareness to issues of systemic racism within the Montreal police department.

Black people and Indigenous people in Montreal are five times more likely to be stopped by officers than white people. 


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In 2013, a California police chief told The New York Times that "when you put a camera on a police officer, they tend to behave a little better, follow the rules a little better." 

 

A major study called the Rialto Study in which body cams were kept on continuously reported a dramatic drop in police use of force. A Washington D.C. study that required officers to record and upload interactions found the cameras made no difference. Past studies on body cams have included a mix of settings, methods, and results

Protestors across North America are calling for top to bottom reform of the justice system.

Body cameras are just one of many suggestions.

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