MEDICINE HAT – Over the last several months the Medicine Hat Police Service has been running a pilot project involving body worn cameras, and dash cams.
The service wants to continue with the pilot project and has decided to purchase six cameras in the upcoming budget.
Police Chief Andy McGrogan said the 2019 budget includes $38,000 to cover the cost of equipment and related programs. In future years, the program will cost around $18,000 annually.
Right now there are no plans to fully implement the system with all the services, which includes evidence storage, interview and cell block cameras, as it could cost up to $1 million over five years. That cost doesn’t include the cost of supporting the system which would likely include the need to hire more staff to process and manage the video evidence.
McGrogan said it’s a cost the city can’t afford to spend right now so they’ll continue with the paired down option they’re currently working with.
“If we keep this at a low level right now, kind of institutionalize the practice and procedure and get our people more familiar with them, then I think we're a better chance for success if at one point we decide to fully implement,” explained McGrogan.
The chief of police said he believes the technology is important as it helps to create greater transparency and accountability. However, he adds there’s not a lot of evidence that the cameras are making a big difference here in Medicine Hat, so far.
McGrogan said to his knowledge none of the body camera or dash-cam video has been introduced in any court proceedings at this point, but he’s hoping it will prove to be a valuable tool.
“We're hoping that it makes a big difference,” he said. “The more cases where we could actually demonstrate that, and get a guilty plea to get the matter dealt with quicker, the better it is for everybody.”
The cameras are currently being worn and used by members of the patrol team and the traffic unit. McGrogan said the plan is to continue with that deployment.
The proposed budget will need to be approved by City Council.
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