Saskatoon police plan to expand body camera pilot program

The board of police commissioners met Thursday to discuss several topics, but the big one on the agenda is the use of body cameras for officers.

The Saskatoon Police Service wants to double the number of officers wearing body cameras to 80 from 40.

Read more: Saskatoon police body cameras could build trust, but caution required: surveillance expert

Sgt. Tom Gresty, one of the officers providing findings at the board meeting, said the use of body cameras by officers has been running smoothly and they are experiencing success.

“The analogy that we’re using in training with our members is ‘seatbelt on seatbelt off,’” Gresty told the media after his presentation.

“If I’m a patrol officer and I am dispatched to a call for service, upon my arrival to that call for service, prior to taking my seatbelt off, to get out and start investigating, I’m going to start recording,” he added.

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Gresty said despite officers having to learn new equipment, the force received little pushback.

“At this stage of the pilot … we’re really not concerned with any of the audits. There’s definitely some coaching but anytime you give a member a new piece of equipment, it’s going to take some getting used to.”

Monthly audits are run to ensure that officers are adhering to the policies, Gresty said.

Dale Johnstone, acting director of Information Technology and writer of the report presented Thursday, told the board that the devices have been an asset to collect video and audio statements from victims and witnesses.

While the feedback presented was anecdotal, with stories about officers and the public regarding the use of body cams, Gresty has said he hasn’t heard any negative feedback.

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Read more: Saskatoon police unveil new body-worn camera project

However, only references to the community satisfaction survey were made – which was conducted before the start of the pilot.

Johnstone said it’s difficult to collect recent data as the survey isn’t conducted frequently.

“To get those concrete statistics is challenging so we kind of taken the approach of ‘What are the stories. What are the stories we’re getting from the community from the ground.’” he explained.

The service is also asking for an extra $760,000 in its budgets, citing inflationary pressures including higher fuel and natural gas costs.

Part of the funding is also expected to cover the internet child exploitation program and the trafficking response team.

The board has approved the requests, which will now be sent to City Hall for discussion.

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