WINNIPEG — The recent death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, and the shooting of Jacob Blake by Wisconsin Police have sparked a bigger conversation about police accountability.
Now a Winnipeg city councilor wants the city to invest in something he believes will address the issue of racism and excessive force from police officers.
Wednesday – Councillor Kevin Klein put forward a motion to outfit the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) with body-worn cameras.
“Allocate $2 million to the police service to buy body cams, so we can put body cameras on all general patrol officers in 2021,” said Klein.
Klein believes this will put accountability in place, and help to build trust between community members and police officers.
Community Organizer – Michael Redhead Champagne said he doesn’t think the WPS needs body cams.
“Having a camera doesn’t change the behavior, changing the training, and preventing crimes in the first place is the only thing that’s going to change that.”
Champagne said the $2 million proposed by Klein would be better invested in community prevention programs.
In 2015, the topic of body cams was tabled for the city budget, but was scrapped to save money.
Mayor Brian Bowman questions why Klein is bringing this to the table now.
“I appointed him chair of the police board, and I didn’t see any leadership during that time on the issue of body cams,” said Bowman.
Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth has said in the past he supports body cams – but highlighted the high cost of equipping the whole force.
Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Winnipeg – Bronwyn Dobchuk-Land said the idea that body cameras would help build trust between the community and law enforcement is rooted in two assumptions.
“(The first assumption is) the idea that body cameras would increase public scrutiny and accountability. And the second assumption is that increased public scrutiny would lead to a change in police behavior, and neither of these things have been found to be true.”
Dobchuk-Land also said body cameras don’t shift the balance of power between police and the people who are being policed.
Klein said Calgary and Toronto have already implemented body cams for officers.
“I think people are concerned about this and I think people want their leaders to have body cameras on our officers.”
Councillor Klein’s motion was voted down by the Assiniboia Community Committee.
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