Criminal Law

Toronto police wrong to turn off body cams while carding

Equipping Toronto police officers with body cameras but not requiring the devices to be turned on while carding individuals not under arrest or investigation would undermine the overall purpose of the pilot project, says Toronto criminal lawyer Roots Gadhia.

“The rollout of the body cams was designed to ensure the safety of both the officers and the public, but if they can, of their own choosing, turn the camera off then it's a waste of taxpayers' dollars,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Gadhia's comments relate to a one-year pilot project that will see 100 officers from four units wearing body cams on shift, beginning May 18, reports the National Post.

The project was partly prompted by the shooting death of teenager Sammy Yatim, says the arcticle.

A police spokesperson initially said that the cameras won’t be turned on at all times while officers are working; officers will turn on the devices “prior to arriving at a call for service or when they start investigating an individual,” and then turn them off “when the call for service or investigation is complete” or when the officer deems the recording is no longer serving its purpose.

This meant that the cameras would be switched off during most instances of carding, which has been described as the most contentious issue in Toronto policing currently.

But the force has since backtracked and the police spokesperson has said she was mistaken, says The Post. Under the rules of the trial as written, officers will in fact be expected to film any interaction that could be considered carding under any definition, says the newspaper.

Gadhia says giving police the option to shut off the cameras during carding made no sense at all and says it would cause more problems.

“What is clear is that the courts have acknowledged that statements given to the police when audio and video abilities exist – but aren’t used – at a police station are suspect,” she says. “It leaves a negative inference about why the video was not used. The same will be true of these arbitrary, random ‘investigative’ stops."

Gadhia says there is no reasonable basis for police to turn off cameras at any point when dealing with the public, particularly not when utilizing a policy as controversial as carding.

“This would increase litigation and lead to added costs for the entire judicial system,” she says.

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