Body-worn cameras ‘eliminate subjectivity’ from complaints against Calgary police – Calgary

The use of body cameras by the Calgary Police Service is helping to speed up the investigation of police complaints.

At a meeting of the Calgary Police Commission on Wednesday, Katherine Murphy, executive director of the Professional Standards Section (PSS), credited body cameras with closing investigations into complaints against police officers by 20 per cent. compared to the five-year average.

A PSS report showed that the cameras also reduced the average number of days needed to close cases through alternative dispute resolution by 28 percent compared to the five-year average.

Despite the hundreds of hours it can take to view the footage, Murphy said the labor- and resource-intensive process is worth it to help resolve complaints from members of the public.

In 2022, 39% of PSS files used body-worn camera footage. During the first half of 2023, this figure increased to 52%.

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“It’s such a useful tool that we rely on so much, and it really takes the subjectivity out of the equation and really allows us to focus,” Murphy said.

Dep. Chief Chad Tawfik said modern policing without body cameras would be “a step backwards.”

“At the provincial level, with the Ministry of Public Security, there is strong emphasis on the fact that all organizations commit in this direction. Fortunately, we are ahead of the game,” Tawfik said.

At the meeting, it was learned that when the cameras were initially deployed in April 2019, some officers mocked their usefulness, comparing them to “Big Brother”.

“Now many of our officers won’t go out without body-worn cameras,” the congressman said. » said Chef Katie McLellan. “That’s how much we’ve come forward and how much the culture has changed, and how much our agents want that extra transparency.”

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Tawfik noted that there are very few exceptions in CPS policy when officers can turn off their body cameras: when multiple officers on a scene are using the cameras or when they clearly explain why they are turning them off.

“If we see a file and see a body worn camera being disabled, we sanction that in itself,” Murphy added. “So we have seen a significant increase in compliance with body cameras since their deployment in 2019.”

Police Commission Chairman Shawn Cornett said the civilian watchdog has questioned CPS about its policy on turning off the cameras since they were introduced.

“It’s something we’re monitoring closely,” Cornett said.

Murphy said just over half of complaint files were closed in one year, an increase of 25 percent from 2021.

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There was a 19% decrease in the number of citizen calls to PSS to compliment or complain about officer conduct, and the number of complaints also decreased in 2022 compared to the previous year.

Murphy noted that the number of complaints has returned to five-year average levels, “a normalized state in terms of the number of complaints.”

She said that while 90 percent of complaints are resolved during the intake process, any complaints regarding alleged use of excessive force are investigated.

The PSS executive director also shared the results of complaints against officers, saying 13 percent resulted in disciplinary action, 45 percent were resolved informally and the rest were not upheld, dismissed or removed.

The most common form of misconduct in 2022 was insubordination with 36 percent of “non-serious” complaints, followed by dishonorable conduct at 34 percent. The use of force was observed in approximately nine percent of cases.

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Complaints deemed “serious” went to hearings, and last year there were 12 hearings involving 19 officers and 36 separate allegations of misconduct.

“The most common sanction given to our officers for misconduct was a formal warning of about 50 percent,” Murphy said.

“We also impose sanctions of a financial nature, which means we remove overtime from their pay bank or suspend them without pay, or they are demoted or, in the most extreme cases, dismissed from service .”

Murphy said the 2018 Arkinstall survey “really lit a fire to improve the way we do things. And I’ve seen exceptional leadership from my team when it comes to professional standards, to really think outside the box and suggest improvements to the creative process.

Tawfik said that in recent years, CPS has focused on types of driving complaints.

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“I have to give credit to our members for the way they are responding to this and paying attention to the things they are seeing happening in the professional standards office,” the deputy chief said. “We’ve done quite a bit of communication internally about what we’re seeing, and that helps inform our members about their expectations and so on.

Murphy agreed that officers appear to improve their conduct when maintaining order.

“I think it’s a performance indicator. I think the onboard camera probably plays a role in this, but I don’t take the results for granted.

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