Smile, you’re under arrest
The newest technology that may be finding its way into the arsenal of the Canadian police officer is a development by Taser International called the AXON head camera. These miniature cameras record video and sound and if embraced by the police will be worn by police officers at all times. With this device, police will record every encounter they have with suspects.
The U.K. already uses this technology and many police forces in the United States are either using it as well or are in trial periods. Thus far, the cameras have received both positive and negative feedback. For a long time, civilians have been protesting that police brutality is rampant – and there is evidence to prove it – but this evidence is removed from the Internet or confiscated as soon as police discover it exists.
In theory, a camera that records every action an officer takes increases their accountability. If police officers are aware that they are being monitored at all times, and that the recording will be saved as evidence, they are bound to be more cautious about what they say and how they deal with suspects, particularly at riots, where we tend to hear the most accounts of power abuses by the police.
However, it’s not just the police officers who will behave differently if they are aware that their every word is being recorded as evidence that can be used either for or against them. If citizens are aware that they are being recorded, the interaction between civilian and officer risks becoming sterilized. The solutions presented by this technology, primarily that it will decrease incidences of thoughtless outbursts of honest behaviour, might simultaneously create a problem.
The future of police-public interactions in Canada lies in striving to address the issue of police distrust. The trust the Canadian people have in their police force has been dropping steadily, linked to incidences of recorded police brutality. This increase in awareness of police brutality is in direct proportion to an increase in citizen journalism. One way to battle this sentiment of distrust is to create a community-like situation, in which citizens of a community view police officers as helpers and members of that community. Police officers must become people who are not only there when there is danger, but also when there is peace. They must be viewed as friends to the people, so that citizens are comfortable approaching an officer in all sincerity, with little concern for their words being used against them.
Placing a camera in the centre of that relationship is a major elephant in the room. Citizens will watch what they say, police officers will watch what they say, and while there may be a more accountable police force, the sterile distrust and reserve citizens have towards the officers in their community will remain. The social problem that causes a great deal of crime, namely a lack of trust in the police, will remain. Thankfully, it will be recorded on cameras and compiled as evidence to indict a failing system.