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Ottawa police bodycam pilot project expected by late 2024, early 2025

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Ottawa Police Chief Eric Stubbs says a pilot project to equip local police officers with body cameras is expected to begin around the end of this year or the beginning of next year.

The 2023 Ottawa Police Services budget included funding for a body-worn camera pilot project and the accompanying data storage infrastructure, called digital evidence management system or DEMS.

Speaking to reporters Monday at a media availability prior to Monday's Ottawa Police Services Board meeting, Stubbs said getting that data storage in place is a crucial first step before body cameras are rolled out.

"We're going ahead and installing that product this year into the service, which also includes what we call video oversight — the cameras in our interview rooms when we're recording witnesses, victims or suspects during interviews," he said. "So, that's going ahead this year. The DEMS is a foundational piece that you need for body-worn cameras so you can store all the video. So, that part will be rolled out in 2024."

Stubbs said once the DEMS is installed, a pilot project for body cameras can begin.

"We are preparing for a pilot with body-worn cameras and what we call ALPRs — automated licence plate readers, but basically, they're dashcams — and that pilot will follow the DEMS and the video oversight installation. So, we're looking at the end of 2024 or beginning of 2025 for that pilot to start."

Ottawa police had previously discussed a pilot project for body-worn cameras in 2016, and former police chief Peter Sloly revived the discussion in 2020.

Police in Vancouver and Toronto use body-worn cameras and the Alberta government mandated them across the province in 2023. Body-worn cameras have also been tried by several other police services across Canada, including the RCMP.

The idea has the backing of the Ottawa Police Association, which says it has been advocating for body cameras for more than 10 years.

"I would like to see the Ontario government follow Alberta's lead and mandate body-worn cameras for all police officers in the province of Ontario," said Ottawa Police Association President Matthew Cox in a statement to CTV News Ottawa.

Studies on the use of body-worn cameras have not found consistent evidence that they reduce excessive use of force by officers.

Cox said, however, that he believes body cameras would be beneficial for the community.

"The Association believes it will protect officers, build trust with the community, and ensure transparency. If mandated by government, body worn cameras would be universal across the province and better for everyone, the public and the police," he said. 

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