WINNIPEG — Winnipeg could be a step closer to outfitting all police officers with body cameras, if the money can be found at City Hall.
The Winnipeg Police Board is asking Winnipeg City Council to consider a new body camera budget item.
“This is a leap that we got to take,” said Winnipeg Police Board Chair Markus Chambers.
A report to the police board says the cameras can provide irrefutable evidence to describe situations when use of force events occur, like officer-involved shootings. The report said they can improve evidence collection to assist prosecutors.
“We all know the saying a picture is worth a thousand words,” said Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth.
But money could be a potential roadblock.
The report estimates a $32 million cost over six years starting in 2022 to pay for the 1,343 cameras and associated hardware. On top of that, there is another $700,000 annually for extra staff to run the program.
Chambers and Smyth, who are both pushing for the cameras, said this would require an increase to the police service budget.
“This will be about our politicians and our democracy in action here on what they see as important and what they see as a priority,” said Smyth.
“I hear the calls for defunding the police, but I see how necessary this is,” said Chambers.
Scott Gillingham, the councillor who oversees city finances, said the police operations budget is already north of $300 million a year. He said if the service and the board want the technology, they need to find the money within the current police budget.
“I do not support asking taxpayers for a big increase to the police budget to purchase body cameras,” said Gillingham.
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