Moun­ties test­ing Taser video cams


OTTAWA — The Moun­ties are mak­ing some videos, and you don’t want to be in them.

RCMP of­fi­cers in Kelowna, B.C., and Monc­ton, N.B., are test­ing two kinds of cam­eras that will record Taser fir­ings dur­ing six-month field tri­als.

In­cluded in the tests are the Taser Cam, an ac­ces­sory for newer-model stun guns made by Taser In­ter­na­tional, sup­plier to the RCMP, and the VIDMIC, an au­dio-video recorder that at­taches to an of­fi­cer’s belt ra­dio.

Field test­ing of the de­vices in the two com­mu­ni­ties was slated to be­gin in De­cem­ber, say in­ter­nal brief­ing notes on the project ob­tained un­der the Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion Act.

Re­sults from the tri­als will be an­a­lyzed to de­ter­mine whether one or both of the de­vices are used more widely by the RCMP.

The tests come amid grow­ing con­cern about po­lice ac­count­abil­ity on use of stun guns, which de­liver a pow­er­ful jolt that in­ca­pac­i­tates sus­pects.

An RCMP com­plaints com­mis­sion re­port on the case of Robert Dziekan­ski — who died af­ter be­ing hit with an RCMP Taser at the Van­cou­ver air­port — said there would have been a clear ben­e­fit” to video footage cap­tur­ing the events from the of­fi­cers’ per­spec­tives.

Com­ple­ment­ing stun guns with record­ing de­vices may be ben­e­fi­cial be­cause doc­u­ment­ing in­ci­dents can make po­lice more ac­count­able, said Micheal Vonn, pol­icy di­rec­tor of the Bri­tish Columbia Civil Lib­er­ties As­so­ci­a­tion. How­ever, an im­por­tant fac­tor will be what hap­pens to the video and au­dio af­ter they are recorded, she said.

There should be pro­to­cols to en­sure the dig­i­tal record­ings can­not be tam­pered with and are read­ily made avail­able to po­lice watch­dogs, she said.

We see a lot of video go miss­ing that com­plainants say would sup­port their side of the story.”

Vonn noted that a pub­lic tus­sle en­sued over an am­a­teur video­tape of the Oc­to­ber 2007 con­fronta­tion in­volv­ing Dziekan­ski. The tape was re­turned to trav­eller Paul Pritchard, who shot the video and loaned it to the RCMP, af­ter he threat­ened to go to court.

A cam­era made by Axon was dis­qual­i­fied from the field tri­als due to RCMP con­cerns about con­trol over the videos.

Af­ter ob­tain­ing fur­ther in­for­ma­tion on th­ese cam­eras it was learned that the record­ings from the Axon cam­era are sent to a third party housed in the United States,” say the brief­ing notes pre­pared for se­nior Moun­ties.

As a re­sult of this the Axon was re­moved as an op­tion for the pi­lot project.”

The RCMP rented a to­tal of 10 Taser Cams and 10 VIDMICS for the tri­als, say the notes.

Lab­o­ra­tory test­ing of the Taser Cams by MPB Tech­nolo­gies re­vealed that one was not func­tion­ing prop­erly and that the bat­tery could not be charged more than 20 per cent.

The notes in­di­cate the lab tests also raised ques­tions about the reli­a­bil­ity of the Taser when the cam­era is at­tached. The cam­era comes with its own power sup­ply that re­places the stan­dard Taser power pack.

When the bat­ter­ies were de­pleted to a level of 25 per cent with the cam­era in place, the Taser worked within tol­er­ance 77 per cent of the time. When the same de­ple­tion test was done with the stan­dard bat­tery, the stun gun func­tioned within tol­er­ance 92 per cent of the time.

The force be­lieves six months is long enough to gather suf­fi­cient data and to see how the record­ing de­vices fare in cold weather and when of­fi­cers are wear­ing win­ter gloves.

The RCMP didn’t re­spond Wed­nes­day to ques­tions about the sta­tus of the tests.

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