Body Worn Video Steering Group
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have conducted a panel discussion with experienced body worn video personnel on the question: Does body worn video help or hinder de-escalation?
Dr. Mary Stratton is the research analyst and co-ordinator for the Body Worn Video Project with Edmonton Police Service. She emphasised that the benefits of body worn cameras are found in offering a robust and independent account of an incident. She explained: “If the use of force is only employed when necessary, BWV should not impact the number of incidents but could potentially offer stronger evidence and a ‘third eye’ record of the interaction.
Preliminary findings… suggest that BWV is more likely to contribute to the understanding of incidents where aggression has escalated”
Cst. Scott Messier is the general policing investigator for the Northeast District, New Brunswick. He testified to the times when body worn cameras had acted as a deterrent in volatile situations:
“Any police officer will tell you how quickly a relatively calm situation can escalate into a precarious one, and usually without warning.
In my experience using body worn cameras … I noticed that some people positively adapt their behaviour when they learn that a camera is fixed on them. Generally, their behaviour would become subdued almost immediately. Examples of this change in behaviour included their tone of voice, which went from yelling and swearing to a normal, comprehensible level.
I’m not advocating that the presence of BWV systems will change people’s behaviour every time for the better. But I do believe that people are less likely to be abusive or troublesome when they are aware a camera is recording the interaction.”
In addition, Cst. Messier also highlighted the advantage of being able to be educated by reviewing footage taken from incidents:
“During my review of my BWV footage, I took the time to analyze my dealings. As a result, I was more aware of how I interacted with the public, which subconsciously improved my professionalism. Since a police officer’s demeanour can influence another person’s conduct, increased self-awareness through BWV can help de-escalate tension.”