Nunavut RCMP officers will have the ability to turn their body-worn cameras on and off when a national pilot project gets underway in Iqaluit next month.
That’s according to the federal minister of public safety’s office in an email to CBC, which said the information came from the RCMP.
The Mounties announced last week that the trial run will begin in Nunavut’s capital with an eye to expanding the pilot to other Canadian communities.
No details on the funding or timeline for that national expansion have been announced.
To start with, 20 cameras will be deployed with officers in Iqaluit, Mary-Liz Power, press secretary to Minister Bill Blair said in an email.
She said the plan is to expand the project to other Nunavut communities after Iqaluit but did not provide a timeline for that.
The cameras deployed in Nunavut next month will have the ability to capture audio as well as video footage, Power said.
Nunavut RCMP will hold a media event on Wednesday in Iqaluit to release more information about the pilot project.
Body-worn cameras are seen by many as an important police-accountability measure in the wake of calls to defund police departments.
But Adam Benforado, an American law professor, told CBC News that research shows police cameras do not provide the independent, unbiased perspective many hope for.
An officer’s ability to turn a body camera on and off can make it even more difficult to overcome biases, he said.
Benforado, author of a bestselling book called Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice, said he studies common assumptions underlying legal institutions.
Some of those biases cross international borders, such as perspective bias, Benforado said from his office at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
Psychologists and film study experts recognized this long ago, he said: the framing and position of a camera can fundamentally change the story viewers see.
“When we’re seeing a body-worn camera, we’re seeing things from the perspective of the police officer. We’re literally standing in the shoes of the police officer,” Benforado said.
Experiments in perspective bias in the criminal justice process have focused on interrogations, he said.
“Scientists have found it really matters what sort of frame is being offered,” Benforado said.
According to Benforado, viewers who watched the perspective of the police interrogator were much more inclined to think the interrogation was reasonable. But viewers who watched the perspective of the suspect were far less inclined to think that, Benforado said.