City council tables peace officer body cameras plan Jan. 9

The topic of cameras worn by City of Wetaskiwin peace officers as they go about their duties was tabled by council after debate Jan. 9.

The City of Wetaskiwin has approved a peace officer body camera policy.

The City of Wetaskiwin has approved a peace officer body camera policy.

The topic of cameras worn by City of Wetaskiwin peace officers as they go about their duties was tabled by council after debate Jan. 9.

During their regular meeting, councilors read the proposed policy submitted by Protective Services director Leigh Sawicki, who attended the meeting with peace officers Eric Christiansen and Trent Jager.

“Peace Officers of the City of Wetaskiwin will be provided with, and will use, Body Worn Video (BWV) systems as a means of protection to both to the Officer and the public which they serve,” stated Sawicki’s presentation.

“BWV’s will be used in accordance with all governing legislation, bylaws, policies and procedures of the City of Wetaskiwin.

“Body Worn Video (BWV), (also known as Body Worn Cameras) are electronic devices that are mounted onto a Peace Officer’s uniform. The BWV is intended to be an overt personal video system that will capture an audio/video record of events as they occur within the viewing area of the camera.

“BWV’s will be made available to all Peace Officers. Body Worn Cameras will be used in accordance with, and subject to the provisions of the City of Wetaskiwin’s policies and procedures. BWV equipment may only be used by Peace Officers who are on duty within the meaning of the Peace Officer Act and are dealing with a subject that is subsequent to an investigation or significant contact.”

Sawicki told council that the department had cameras in use before the Solicitor General’s office released the provincial policy; this proposed policy reflects the provincial requirement. Sawicki said the RCMP has reviewed the proposed policy.

Councilor June Boyda asked if council was reading the entire policy. Officer Christiansen stated that council had the policy itself before them, but some parts were kept private for security reasons.

Sawicki echoed this comment. He said the policy itself was public, but the procedures are not made public for security reasons.

Discussion moved to the value of such video and audio evidence. Christiansen said many emergency services are using body cameras. “It’s probably saved them more than it’s cost them,” said Christiansen. He said a video record may provide objective evidence of what occurred during a particular incident.

He noted the video is stored for three years, upped to five years if the footage is involved in a complaint against an officer. He noted the peace officer vehicles already have video recorders installed.

Councilor Patricia MacQuarrie stated she also was concerned about not reading the procedures part before approving the policy. “The procedures are kind of out of our control,” she said. She said she was uncomfortable approving the policy in that situation, and suggested tabling the policy, give council a chance to read the procedures privately, then have the policy return to a future council meeting.

Councilors unanimously approved MacQuarrie’s suggestion.

READ the council’s later decision here:

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