Guelph/Eramosa considering body-worn cameras for bylaw, fire prevention officers

GUELPH/ERAMOSA – Council here is expected to approve the use of body-worn cameras for the municipality’s bylaw enforcement and fire prevention officers.

Sitting as the committee of the whole on June 16, Guelph/Eramosa councillors heard from bylaw enforcement and property standards officer Ivan Lunevski, who said the cameras would help:

  • increase accountability and transparency of staff-public interactions;
  • gather evidence while in the field; and
  • “decrease potential liability” for the township.

The proposed policy states officers will activate the cameras when use is appropriate to properly perform their official duties, and where the recordings are consistent with the policy and law.

The policy does not govern the use of recording devices used in undercover operations.

Lunevski’s report states body-worn cameras often result in improved behaviour among both officers and citizens and they can expedite the resolution of citizen complaints or lawsuits. He added they can also provide opportunities for bylaw enforcement training.

However, the use of a recording device may create privacy concerns for both the public and the individual wearing the camera, the report added.

The committee of the whole recommended purchasing the cameras and “evidence management software” with funds from the Municipal Modernization Grant.

In terms of the financial impact, the township is looking at a one-time cost of $5,615 and no yearly fees, Lunevski explained.

“I think it’s a great idea because we’re getting into a lot more ‘he said, she said,’” noted Mayor Chris White, adding a camera “tends to calm a conversation.”

White said, “We’re beginning to see people become confrontational, so I think it helps to protect staff, protect the municipality and I think it’s a good thing to try it out and it’s a better level of accountability.”

Councillor Mark Bouwmeester asked about when the cameras would be turned on and off and stressed the importance of informing the public of potential recording.

Lunevski responded, “Whenever we have any interaction with the public, if it’s in a public space the body camera would be turned on.

“They will always be advised at the beginning of the confrontation and they will be aware they are being recorded.”

Councillor Corey Woods said, “I think this is a good thing, it provides evidence, it provides a whole bunch of things that I think would be good for the municipality.

“People may not like them, but I think it keeps people honest.”

The committee received the report and recommended adoption of the proposed policy to council.

If the policy is approved by council, the township will monitor implementation to mitigate risks and provide training to staff to ensure body-worn cameras are used effectively, officials say.

Up-to-date information will also be made available on the township website concerning the collection of body-worn camera recordings.