Several companies such as Taser and Vievu are selling small personal video recording (PVR) devices designed specifically for police use. These small cameras are very durable and are capable of recording extended police/citizen interactions.
These cameras serve two main purposes: they provide video evidence police can use in the prosecution of charged persons, and they assist police managers in monitoring police behaviour.
A few major American police departments such as Cincinnati and Oakland have adopted the use of personal video recorders by its members.
The American experience has shown that police managers and unions don’t see eye to eye on the use of PVR’s. They are especially appealing to police managers who are dealing with a high volume of allegations of police misconduct. Police unions are worried that management will use video footage against officers.
In Seattle where the police department is being investigated by the Justice Department for alleged misconduct, a City Councilman is lobbying the mayor to include money in the 2012 budget to conduct a PVR pilot project in Seattle. He hopes that such a pilot project would provide a more complete view of police encounters with the public, and that it would improve police behaviour.
The American experience has shown that the implementation in Winnipeg will in all likelihood require extensive negotiations with the Winnipeg Police Association.
The Winnipeg Police Service has 1 million dollars set aside in the Capital Budget for PVR’s. The priority of capital budget items can usually be judged fairly accurately by how often they get pushed back into the last year of the capital budget cycle. For example, last year the expenditure was slated for 2015 in the final year of the cycle. In this year’s Capital Budget it has been moved back to 2016. In Winnipeg this is obviously not considered a priority. It will be interesting to track the Capital Budget for the next several years to see if this proposed expenditure ever becomes a high priority. Or will it be moved back year after year? Or even perhaps eliminated or converted to some other use?