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Costly police body cameras present some legal issues

Equipping police officers with body cameras is a large undertaking that will incur the additional expense of viewing and storing countless hours of video footage for court cases, a daunting task for police forces already financially stressed, says Toronto criminal lawyer Peter Brauti.

“I don’t see how we are even close to being in a situation of managing that,” he says.

Brauti, partner at Brauti Thorning Zibarras LLP, was quoted in a Globe and Mail article about a growing number of police forces in Canada and in other parts of the world moving toward adopting the new devices.

The newspaper pointed to the Calgary Police, which will see its 800 officers begin wearing tiny video cameras attached to their vests later in the coming months. The force is one of the first in Canada to use the cameras in what The Globe described as "point-of-view law enforcement." Already, the technology is being used in an increasing number of British and American cities, including London and New York; several other Canadian cities, including Toronto, Edmonton, Halifax and Montreal, are looking at testing or adopting the equipment, reports the newspaper.

Known as “body-worn cameras” (BWCs), these compact GoPro-like devices are capable of recording interactions between officers and civilians; some models can be attached to an officer’s vest or helmet, while others, which look like thick pens, can be connected to the arms of specially designed glasses, says the article.

However, some police services are questioning the presumed benefits of the technology, the cost and even the need for an additional layer of civilian accountability, says The Globe.

The newspaper article points to some privacy watchdogs who are are warning about some "thorny" legal questions around how and where these cameras are employed, their downstream uses, as well as and "what happens when a bystander is unwittingly captured on a video that may be made public in court or via the media."

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