Nunavut’s RCMP chief wants better Inuit outreach on police body cameras
Goal is to have officers wearing cameras throughout the territory in next 18 months
The RCMP wants to hear more Inuit voices when it comes to the police’s new body camera initiative, says Nunavut’s commanding officer, Chief Supt. Amanda Jones.
Officers in Iqaluit wore body cameras as part of a pilot project between November 2020 and May 2021, and this week, the RCMP released some findings from a report summarizing community feedback on how the project went.
A total of 73 people completed a survey on the pilot project. Out of that total, 13 identified themselves as Inuit and 13 preferred not to identify, Jones said.
“Which is really low representation considering 85 per cent of the population in Nunavut is Inuit,” she said.
About 50 per cent of Iqaluit’s population is Inuit, according to 2016 census data.
Results of the survey show more than 60 per cent of respondents have favourable views of police wearing body cameras when it comes to transparency, trust in police and public safety.
Meanwhile, more Inuit respondents stated they believe body cameras will reduce police use of force compared to white respondents. More white respondents disagree that body cameras are an invasion of privacy than Inuit.
Jones said the RCMP has spoken with MLAs and mayors across Nunavut about how to improve Inuit outreach for future surveys, with suggestions such as having a permanent box to collect survey results at a hamlet office. She added the RCMP wants to hold town hall meetings when the COVID-19 pandemic wanes.
Jones shared some detail from the RCMP’s draft policy addressing the protocol for using a body camera.
“Obviously there’s privacy issues we need to consider,” she said, bringing up the example of when someone is going to the hospital.
Jonathan Ellsworth, the chief operating officer of Nunavut Legal Aid, said that policy needs to be clear about certain things, such as when the camera is turned off.
“If the camera comes off, that [RCMP officer] will have to articulate why it comes off,” she said.
Jones said her goal is to have police body cameras used in every community in the territory in the next 18 months, and Iqaluit could see them by spring.
Initial funding for the body cameras will come from the federal government, but after the 2023-24 fiscal year, funding will need to be provided by the Government of Nunavut, Jones said. She added it is estimated that each camera will cost between $2,000 to $3,000 per year.
Jones said that body cameras will create transparency, but that it is only a part of building trust with communities.
“We still have a lot of work to do and we know that and our members are working to help build that trust,” she said.
The full 116-page report on the body-worn camera pilot project will be available in about a month and a half, after translations into Inuktitut and French are finished, Jones said.