Back in March 2023, Alberta’s UCP government implemented a mandate that all police officers around the province would have to wear body cams, including those in the Taber Police Service. 

“We didn’t have it in our strategic plan to implement body-worn video cams as a program for multiple reasons, but being as the province has mandated it, we’re going to have to comply,” said Chief Graham Abela of the Taber Police Service. “That’s gonna mean that we’re going to have to find the resources to purchase the cameras as well as the people to be able to handle the volume.” 

The provincial government, Abela says, has given the Taber Police Service a framework for how things are going to work; they’re going to engage with police services and communities associated with this, but it just hasn’t happened yet.

“They’re going to start the conversation with the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police around what the standard should look like and then they’re going to look at the different types of models that are available,” Abela said. “Then they’ll allow for a procurement phase by the police agencies with an implementation phase following.” 

Chief Abela admits that he is personally torn on the mandate, as any time there’s an external pressure that’s on police from afar, it means that the resources to implement such programs need to be found. And, Abela says, body-worn cameras are not an inexpensive piece of technology, nor is the requirement to manage the amount of information that comes from those body-worn camera systems. 

“I don’t really see the need for the Taber Police,” Abela said. “We haven’t received a public complaint against police in years associated to issues of bias or issues of excessive use of force or authority in years. So when I look at policing as a larger paradigm than just the Taber Police Service, the accountability and governance piece associated to body-worn cameras does probably have a legitimate place in policing and I think that it’s probably somewhere we should go. It’s just, do the ends justify the means associated to the costs?” 

Abela also states that he’s never had anyone from the public and Taber say to him that the police should get body-worn video cameras. Nor has his commission told him to do so. Taber Police Service, Abela says, practices principles of community policing and although body-cameras would be nice to have, he doesn’t know if it would be an essential thing. 

“Part of my responsibility is to provide fiscally-responsible policing services, and if we were given the money by the province to pay for the body-worn systems and to manage the program, I think that I’d be more willing to take on the responsibility,” Abela said. “I understand that that would be a fiscal challenge to the province, and it’s all taxpayer’s money, but at the end of the day, for our community to fund this, I’m not sure that it’s really necessary. The cost of the camera is one thing, but it almost requires a full-time equivalent person within the organization to be able to manage the video that comes from the cameras, as that is a tremendous amount of data that’s produced, that is gonna require a person to do that. So, we’re looking at a $65,000 – $80,000 a year job to do that, which is gonna be in addition to the police budget and that’s being imposed externally to us. The Minister has said this has to happen.” 

Police Chief Abela added that citizens have a very high satisfaction rate associated with the Taber Police Service and a good litmus test to determine the community’s satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the police is to look at the number of public complaints that are received. And, Abela says, Taber Police Service has received none and have had none for years.

Abela emphasizes that the Taber Police Service has an incredible relationship with the community. 

“At the end of the day I’m not opposed to it, but it’s just it would be nice to see the funding come external to the community if they’re gonna require it,” Abela said. “There’s other places where money like that could be spent in the community other than on body cameras, specifically for the Taber Police. If I felt I had a need, if I felt I had issues around bias or issues around excessive use of force or governance pieces associated with police practice, I’d be the first to be stepping up and saying, ‘we need body-worn cameras,’ but we’re not there. We’re not even close to there.”

By Heather Cameron, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 26, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   The Taber Times   Taber, Alberta

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