Council Plays It Favourite Game on Police Lapel Cameras: Dodging The Issue

Norm Dorr, father-in-law of the late Steve Mesic who died in a police shooting last year, stood in front of City Councillors on Wednesday asking them to do something simple – endorse lapel cameras for Hamilton’s police officers.

Instead, Council dodged the issue.

[![Police Lapel Camera in use by the West Midlands Police in the UK (Photo courtesy West Midlands Police, CC-BY-SA)](]( Lapel Camera in use by the West Midlands Police in the UK (Photo courtesy West Midlands Police, CC-BY-SA)
Dorr stood in front of Council speaking passionately about the issue, but didn’t succeed in getting City Council to act.

Instead, Council received his delegation without any direction.

Only one Councillor spoke to Dorr’s request.

Ward 9 Councillor Brad Clark explained the Police Services Board is an independent body and that City Council cannot direct them.

Council’s Favourite Game: Dodging the Issue

It is true City Council cannot direct the Police Board – Council can only vote yes or no on the police budget.

It can vote to support lapel cameras, and to send a letter to the Police Services Board stating Council supports a pilot – much the same as letters Council sends on a regular basis to the province and federal government on issues.

There is a key difference in this case – if Council sent the Police Board a letter, they be committing to fund lapel cameras. Letters to higher levels of government don’t require Council to do anything, they’re usually asking other levels to fund the initiative Council seeks.

Lapel Cameras Work

Police forces that equip their officers with lapel cameras are seeing a decrease in use of force, and complaints from citizens.

In California, misconduct complaints at the Rialto Police Department (pop. 93284) decreased year-over-year by 88 percent after the introduction of cameras worn by half of the city’s uniform patrol – this includes among officers without cameras.

Use-of-force decreased 60 percent.

Opportunity Lost

Dorr’s delegation was an opportunity for Council to lead, by receiving without any discussion, Councillors dodged the issue.

Hamiltonians deserved better – we should know where Council stands on lapel cameras.