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North Bay police continue looking into body cameras

North Bay’s Police Services Board is looking to move ahead with the implementation of body cameras on officers.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the board was given a presentation from Sergeant Dave Goodbrand of the Barrie Police Service. Goodbrand has been leading the implementation of body cameras for his service since 2016, with a pilot project beginning in Barrie last week.

Goodbrand’s presentation highlighted the importance of implementing a digital evidence management system which is both secure and easily accessible by both police officers and the justice system.

Chief Scott Tod of the North Bay Police Service (NBPS) says that Goodbrand’s presentation helped identify the next step for body cameras on his officers.

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“The idea was to inform the board today as the options that the board has in regards to making a decision about body-worn cameras. Certainly from a digital evidence management standpoint, that’s something we have to move forward with as a police service,” Tod told the media following the board meeting.

During his presentation, Goodbrand explained that for Barrie’s body camera program, he had his officers educated on the digital evidence system before figuring out the actual cameras. He did this to ensure that officers have a firm understanding of the technologies involved without overwhelming them.

Tod says that under the previous chief, the NBPS has already “beefed up” its technology to be able to handle more digital evidence. He says now, they need to find a vendor for both evidence management and to supply the cameras.

Goodbrand says that he spent three years mastering their digital evidence management system, which has to be robust enough to store the 2 GB of data gathered from each officer’s camera on a given day.

Even though Tod says the NBPS is prepared to take the next step with body cameras, he wants to do so with caution.

“It’s not something that we can just jump into with both feet right away and risk the chance of sinking in the water rather than swimming in the water,” he said. “We could go from 10s of thousands to 100s of thousands of dollars in mistakes if we don’t do this properly.”

In the short time that Barrie’s police officers have been wearing cameras, Goodbrand says that he’s had feedback from both officers and citizens that they feel safer with police body cameras. For both parties, they say they feel safer from false allegations knowing that there is a record of all interactions.

Chief Tod agrees that the public is in favour of body cameras, but adds that they need to consider the costs and resources.

Goodbrand says that Barrie police overhauled its evidence system which involved eradicating the use of DVDs to store evidence. He said that move alone freed up $18-$20,000 from the budget, which was put back into a digital evidence system’s implementation.

Tod says that the tentative timeline for body cameras in North Bay begins with putting mobile evidence technology in select police cruisers in March of 2021, which will hopefully be expanded in June. From there, he says the NBPS will look into a digital evidence management system before the eventual rollout of body cameras.

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