Nunavik police opt to expand use of body-worn cameras, Tasers across region
KRPF says tools could help de-escalate violent, high-risk incidents
Updated on Sept. 18 at 2:10 p.m.
The Kativik Regional Police Force says it’s planning to invest in body-worn cameras and Tasers across the region as a way to address and prevent violent encounters between police and civilians.
The police force launched a pilot project at the beginning of the year, deploying six cameras worn by various officers on duty to capture their interactions.
Between January and August 2020, those cameras captured footage from 160 interactions between police and citizens in Kuujjuaq. A number of those videos were later used as evidence in criminal files.
The KRPF has deemed the pilot a success; KRPF Chief Jean-Pierre Larose said that footage has increased police accountability, boosted public confidence and reduced the use of force by its officers.
As a result, the force is expanding the pilot to equip officers in Salluit and Puvirnituq with cameras this year, Larose told Kativik Regional Government council meetings on Sept. 16 in Kuujjuaq.
The force plans to spend $130,000 to buy more cameras for other Nunavik communities next year, he said.
“The KRPF is the first to be using body-worn cameras in the province,” Larose said.
And Nunavik police have already been approached for their input on the cameras by other jurisdictions; the KRPF was invited to take part in a Nunavut roundtable this past summer looking at the potential use of cameras by RCMP officers in the territory.
Quebec’s Ministry of Public Security will also look to the KRPF for its input at a provincial committee looking at the benefits of body-worn cameras for other forces in Quebec.
Nunavik police to get Taser training
The KRPF says it’s planning to train over 60 officers to use Tasers by the end of the year, essentially expanding the use of the stun guns to all Nunavik communities.
Nunavik’s police force introduced Tasers in 2017 as a pilot to see if the tools could help de-escalate violent, high-risk incidents, particularly ones involving an armed individual.
This past summer, KRPF Sgt. Kenneth Barnaby completed Taser 7 Instructor training at Quebec’s police academy, qualifying him to now train other KRPF officers.
Currently, only nine officers in Nunavik are trained and permitted to use Tasers. Larose said the goal is to have 70 officers trained by the end of 2020.
That would make the KRPF among the first in Quebec to equip most of its force with the stun guns.
Nunavik’s police chiefs initially expressed concerns that Tasers were ineffective, because the darts couldn’t penetrate heavy clothing, like parkas.
But now the KRPF said the tools have proven effective in lessening the number of interactions involving a firearm.
Larose said the number of calls to police involving firearms is down since 2018, and there have been no police-involved shooting deaths in the region since 2018.
The KRPF said it’s also working to hire at least one local Inuk interpreter to work with officers in crisis situations. Currently just four of the KRPF’s 90 officers are Inuit.
The KRG has clarified that there have been no police-involved shooting deaths in Nunavik since 2018. The story has been updated accordingly.