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Thursday, February 25, 2010

RCMP to test uniform-mounted cameras

February 25, 2010
Tonda MacCharles, Toronto Star

OTTAWA–Get out of the car with your hands up. You're on candid camera.

Liberal senators recommended this week that individual Mounties be equipped with miniature, uniform-mounted video cameras to enhance "transparency" in the problem-plagued force.

Now, the Star has learned that at least 20 police departments and detachments across Canada are already using the devices.

The RCMP says officers in detachments in Kelowna, B.C., and Moncton, N.B., (Codiac region) have been fitted with the uniform-mounted cameras as part of a pilot project that is also testing Taser-mounted cameras, made by Arizona-based Taser International.

The six-month pilot project was launched in January using VIDMICs, the trademarked name of a body-worn video and audio-recording device, said RCMP spokesman Sgt. Greg Cox.

Magdy Rafla, of MD Charlton Co. Ltd., the Canadian sales representative for VIDMIC, said the device has also been bought by several Canadian municipal forces, military police and private security firms.

Rafla said the device, which costs $850, has been used by nightclub "bouncers" and "they love it."

In all, Rafla estimates 225 devices are in use, and if the RCMP testing approves them for wider distribution to its members, the force has told the company it would acquire them for all Mounties – in what would be a huge contract for the Victoria-based company.

"(The RCMP) are trying 10 of them right now across Canada. Once they go ahead, they'll be for every RCMP officer. ... That's the plan," Rafla said in a telephone interview from Victoria.

Rafla said other buyers include police forces in Provost, Alta., St. Albert, Alta., and Merritt, B.C., as well as the Department of National Defence. His client list also includes B.C. Ferries, Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital security services and some fire departments.

Taser International produces the Taser Cam, and a different ear-mounted video recording system, known as Axon, which looks like a Bluetooth device. That device can record 12 hours of video – in other words, a police officer's shift. But right now, the Axon contract requires the data to be downloaded to a central data storage facility in the U.S., said Rafla.

Using authorized software, the video/audio devices can be downloaded in a police cruiser onto a laptop, or onto a police department computer. It cannot be transmitted wirelessly. Individual police departments set their own guidelines.

Rafla said the very act of cautioning a suspect that "you're being recorded" gives an advantage that works both ways.

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