OPP addresses body cameras, use of force, defunding police

WELLINGTON COUNTY – The Black Lives Matter movement has raised a lot of questions about policing and the treatment of the Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) community.

Derek Rogers, regional media relations coordinator for OPP West Region, answered questions about local policing posed by the Wellington Advertiser.

QUESTION: Is Wellington OPP considering the use of body cameras?

RESPONSE: The OPP does not presently have body-worn cameras. The OPP regularly tests and considers any technology that can be demonstrated to enhance public safety and is obligated to conduct due diligence on that technology to ensure it’s safe, feasible, economical and effective.

The OPP has reviewed studies done in other police jurisdictions and those studies raised concerns such as data storage and management, privacy concerns, technological limitations and a lack of existing Canadian case law regarding their use. Some of those concerns have been addressed; specifically the technology and data storage concerns.

QUESTION: Concerns have been raised about use of force during arrests, particularly for visible minorities. How does the OPP measure up?

RESPONSE:  Ontario’s Use of Force model was developed to assist in training officers to assess a situation and act in a reasonable manner to ensure public and officer safety. The officer will assess the situation and use the appropriate use of force option that presents the lowest level of risk to the subject, the public and the officer.

In addition to the use of this model, all OPP recruits and senior officers are trained in tactics designed to de-escalate a situation, with use of force utilized as a last resort.

The OPP empathizes with communities, and recognizes the importance of bias-free policing. With respect to addressing racism and other forms of discrimination, the organization follows various policies in the areas of respectful workplace, workplace violence prevention, and anti-racism. Adhering to and providing education about these policies and practices are aligned with our priorities and commitments of the OPP’s Strategic Plan – Our People, Our Work and Our Communities.

Further, the OPP does not conduct nor condone profiling that contravenes the Ontario Human Rights Code or Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

QUESTION: Demands have been made to defund police and shift those dollars to community organizations, like mental health and domestic abuse. Where does OPP stand on this?

RESPONSE:  The OPP recognizes the importance of community partnership. Front-line members across Ontario serve in Community Safety Officer, School Resource Officer and Community Mobilization Officer roles. These specialized roles provide additional support to communities and focus on education, prevention, and relationship building.

Through committee membership, public education and community engagement, these members assist communities in identifying and mitigating safety risks. The Ontario Mobilization and Engagement Model provides police officers in these roles, as well as all front-line members, with a framework to identify issues, collaborate with community partners, implement solutions and maintain public safety.

The OPP continues to build and maintain partnerships with community mental health professionals to ensure a collaborative and appropriate response to mental health- and/or addiction-related calls for service.

This partnership has resulted in the creation of Mobile Crisis Response Teams, which allows police and health partners to respond together to support individuals experiencing and mental health and/or addiction-related crisis.