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Reaction to Halifax police body-camera review positive, but tempered by need to do more
HALIFAX -- There was mostly positive reaction after Halifax's chief of police told CTV News he will reconsider the use of body-worn cameras for his officers.
Halifax Regional Coun. Lindell Smith was among those happy to hear police will revisit the idea.
"Thinking of my experiences and people that I know, a body cam would have painted a different picture, and it might have changed how some people experienced situations with police and what that meant for their life, if they would have had something like that," Smith said.
On Wednesday, Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella told CTV News that he has looked into the police force's 2017 decision not to purchase body cameras and believes it is worth reconsidering.
"There are some things that have changed since then, around the technology, around the data storage and those things," Kinsella said. "We are committed, it is a tool that could have great use, we just have to make sure we consider it and look at the resources required to carrying that out."
Smith, who is also a member of the board of police commissioners, says he thinks the technology is worth the cost.
"It could mean that taxpayers could see a .01 per cent increase on their taxes because of body cams, or 0.03, who knows, but if that means that community members, that officers are going to be safe, why not make it a priority?" Smith said.
Equipping Halifax Regional Police officers with body cameras was a recommendation in the Wortley Report. That report examined the issue of street checks in Halifax and was delivered to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission in March 2019.
"An easy thing for us to do is look at the Wortley Report and say we'll follow all of the recommendations," Smith said. "That's easy and it's a win for the government, because we're saying, 'hey, we're following these recommendations.' But it doesn't actually do anything for the community. For me it's really showing proof, what is going to be done in the long term."
Smith said it will require a different approach to policing.
"Police going into communities, not to police, but to listen and create action," Smith said. "I think we can do it, but our leadership, our chief, our superintendents need to realize that is a different way of policing, and we can only get there if we kinda throw away the old way of policing communities."
Community advocate Kate MacDonald is also in favour of body-worn cameras, but also has some concerns.
"I think they can be an important part of documenting police interactions, but I think there also has to be some established policy around how they're used, and what happens when and if they're turned off," MacDonald said. "We've seen that happen in a lot of incidences of police brutality, that the body camera miraculously shut off and now there is no documentation of the incident, so I think there also will need to be an investment in creating policy around how they are utilized."
An online petition calling for body cameras has garnered more than 50,000 signatures since Sunday.
"My reaction to what we've seen has been mixed," Smith said. "I'm really thankful that where we live, that we don't have to face some of the issues we're seeing across the border, but at the same time there's a lot of trauma that people are feeling, a lot of anxiety and anger, especially in the Black community, who are really showing why our voices need to be heard."
The petition creator says she plans on taking it to council and police next week
A Black Lives Matter vigil will held in front of Halifax's city hall Friday night.