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Alberta requiring body cameras for all police services

Lacombe Police Service Chief supports provincial move

Lacombe Police Service supports an Alberta government plan to require all police services in the province to use body cameras.

Police Chief Lorne Blumhagen said the force has already discussed the issue with Alberta Public Safety and the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police (AACP).

“The Lacombe Police Service will continue to be involved with the working group discussions in building a provincial standard for all police agencies in Alberta,” said Blumhagen in an email on Tuesday.

“The Lacombe Police Service has been utilizing in-car video systems for over two decades and a transition to body-worn cameras has been a topic of discussion and consideration as we assess new technologies and advancements in police service delivery options in the interest of public safety, accountability and public trust and confidence.”

Public Safety Minister Mike Ellis said in a news conference on Tuesday morning that the province is planning to require all police services in the province to use body cameras. While the mandate does not cover the RCMP, the federal government has indicated it is moving toward outfitting more police with body cameras.

Ellis said that officers often respond to complex calls and make split-second decisions.

That can raise concerns from the public about officers’ actions and whether appropriate force was used.

“Mandating police to wear body-worn cameras is a transformational decision that will ensure all interactions with officers are objective,” Ellis said.

“Police are responding to complex calls that may involve vulnerable Albertans (who) are experiencing mental health crises, suffering from addiction or having difficult moments in their (lives) that (are) clouding their decision-making skills.”

Blumhagen said he agrees with the position taken by the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police.

Association vice-president and Camrose police Chief Dean LaGrange said in a statement on Tuesday that the “AACP looks forward to receiving details of the body-worn camera mandate to support transparency and further build trust within our communities. We welcome the opportunity to work together with the ministry to support this program and build a provincial standard within Alberta.”

“Never before has there been such scrutiny on policing — and rightly so,” said LaGrange at the news conference. “We are provided with powers of detention and are held to a very high standard.

“The cameras are a good source of protection, not only for the public, but for the police officers wearing them.”

Ellis said the provincial government will be working with the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police on funding, logistics and when the cameras will roll out. He said the association is to develop a mandate over the next few months to “swiftly get body cameras onto the streets as soon as possible.”

He said Alberta would be the first province to mandate body cameras.

“Police will know that taking appropriate action and using the right amount of force is required in every incident, and police officers who use excessive force will face proper discipline thanks to body camera footage,” Ellis said.

Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee said details of the cost and how the cameras will get to all police services is to be done in short order.

The cameras will help ensure the public gets the entire story, he said.

“If you don’t have this transparency, what happens is you get snapshots of video, whether it’s off a cellphone, whether it’s off of different cameras, that only portray a picture of it,” McFee said. “That takes the toll on everybody, because sometimes the devil in relation to the details is a lot more than a snapshot in time.”

— With files from The Canadian Press