Alberta's new justice minister shows support for police body cameras
EDMONTON -- Police use of body cameras has received a nod of support from Alberta’s new justice minister, though he suggests a decision on the subject likely won’t come before Alberta finishes exploring the possibility of replacing RCMP with its own provincial officers.
Three weeks into the job, Kaycee Madu made the statement when asked for his position by a town mayor west of Edmonton.
“I’ve been talking with some RCMP officers who have expressed concern with me that they are not currently allowed to wear body cameras, even if they purchase them personally,” Edson’s Kevin Zahara explained to CTV News Edmonton.
It was only in June that the RCMP commissioner agreed to outfit some Mounties with the technology after a push from Ottawa.
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“It really seems out of touch and out of date,” Zahara said.
So, he asked Madu’s opinion directly.
The former municipal affairs minister, who took over the justice file from Doug Schweitzer, responded that he’s committed to increasing the transparency and accountability of law enforcement.
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Madu told CTV News he also believes body-worn cameras could increase the accountability of those police deal with, thereby offering officers protection, too.
“There is no question about that that is one of the issues we have heard from all kinds of stakeholders, including Indigenous communities and the minority Black population,” he said during an interview.
Madu told constituents to “stay tuned” as the justice department finishes its review of the Police Act, launched after public criticism of the killing of George Floyd.
However, the decision to use body cameras or not in the province remains on hold so long as RCMP policy is the standard, and the RCMP remain in Alberta.
According to Madu, the body-camera discussion is one reason why the province has also begun looking at creating its own provincial police force, like those operating in Ontario and Quebec.
If Alberta were to end its contract with the Canadian RCMP, it could more easily implement provincial rules around body cameras.
“If we are going to have our own provincial police force, there are all kinds of factors we need to take into consideration,” the minister said.
“What I do know is that it is something I am actively looking into and that at an appropriate time, I will make an announcement.”
“RCMP have cameras in their vehicles now, all sorts of technology is used,” Zahara said.
“Why not let our officers have body cameras… and allow them to have that peace of mind knowing that they’re going to be protected in a situation and the public’s going to be protected as well?”
The report on a provincial police force is due at the end of the year.
Edmonton Police Service tested body-worn cameras from 2012 to 2014.
In June, during a discussion about defunding police, Chief Dale McFee told Edmonton councillors he considered dashcams the better investment.
“I believe the body cameras have low value,” he commented, adding “If somebody pays for them from outside of the city and funds the operating cost, we will wear them.”
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With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Bill Fortier