The Delta Police Department is expanding its use of body-worn cameras to include officers with the traffic section, starting this month.
The DPD began using the Axon body-worn cameras as part of a pilot project in January 2021, primarily during officer training. Use of the cameras was expanded in May with the creation of the DPD’s violence suppression team.
Formed in the wake of a number of shootings across Metro Vancouver last spring, including the fatal shooting of 29-year-old corrections officer Bikramdeep Randhawa in North Delta on May 1, the team is focused on intercepting any potential gang or related activity and acting as a deterrent through a high-profile presence in public spaces, such as along Scott Road and at popular restaurants. In October, the team’s mandate was extended until at least the end of 2021.
The violence suppression team is the first front-line patrol unit in B.C. to use body-worn cameras on a regular basis.
On Friday (Nov. 19), it was announced that the Delta Police Board had approved an expansion of the program, allowing for eight additional cameras to be assigned to the DPD’s traffic section, bringing the total number in use to 16.
The cost to purchase the eight new cameras was approximately $8,600 and covered under the DPD’s existing equipment budget.
“We expect the cameras to be quite useful by providing supplementary footage of incidents such as people talking or texting on the phones while driving, or even in recording drivers who fail to stop,” Acting Insp. Brian Hill, who oversees the traffic section, said in a press release.
A DPD press release points out that a number of police traffic sections in B.C. already use dashcams and audio recorders during traffic stops, and says that this initiative “simply puts the camera in a different position during vehicle stops.”
The cameras will only be worn by traffic section or violence suppression team officers, which means not all drivers pulled over in Delta should expect to be filmed. Traffic officers will use the cameras at their discretion when issuing tickets, and also in situations where they feel there could be a potential for violence or use of force.
Hill noted that officers conducting traffic stops while using the cameras will inform the public that the cameras are recording, unless circumstances prevent them from doing so.
General duty DPD patrol officers will not be wearing the cameras.
The Axom body-worn cameras are high-definition, with a wide-angle lens and multiple microphones, as well as GPS enabled, encrypted and waterproof. Officers sync the cameras with their phones at the start of their shift, allowing them to easily view footage in real time —for example, if a vehicle fails to stop for police, the officer can zoom in to see its licence plate and issue a timely alert to officers down the road.
The department hopes the use of body worn cameras will accomplish four key objectives: increase public trust and confidence, increase officer accountability and transparency, improve evidence documentation, and resolve complaints about alleged officer misconduct.
“The body-worn cameras so far have been well received by the general public in Delta,” Hill said.
A DPD release notes academic studies of body-worn cameras show they reduce use of force by and against police by affecting the behaviour of individuals who are aware of the recording in progress.
Hill noted that the DPD has established strict policy and digital oversight to ensure the footage captured by the cameras is only accessible to the investigating officer, their supervisor and others with an investigative or documented need to see the footage.