Body-Worn Cameras Are Transforming Complaint Resolution

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CPS Sees Faster Complaint Resolution Thanks to Body-Worn Cameras

Posted May 30, 2024 8:57 am.

The Calgary Police Service (CPS) has made significant strides in resolving complaints against its officers. Unlike in past years, CPS now resolves around 70 percent of complaints within a year. Impressively, less than two percent of complaints go unresolved due to officers retiring or resigning to escape accountability.

So, what's behind this improvement? CPS credits the widespread use of body-worn cameras, which have become a game-changer in speeding up complaint resolution.

The Impact of Body-Worn Cameras

Body-worn cameras have revolutionized the way CPS handles complaints. "We use body-worn cameras to resolve more than half of our external complaints," explained Katherine Murphy of CPS. She added, "It takes significantly less time to resolve a complaint with body-worn camera evidence—about three months less, to be exact. This is because the footage provides neutral, reliable evidence."

The presence of these cameras ensures that there is clear, unbiased evidence available when disputes arise. This not only speeds up the process but also makes it fairer for all parties involved.

Supporting Officers and Complainants

CPS hasn't stopped at just implementing body-worn cameras. They’ve also introduced a member liaison to assist officers through the complaint process. This role aims to reduce the stress for officers while ensuring that those who file complaints are supported throughout.

Chief Mark Neufeld highlighted ongoing efforts to make the complaint process more accessible. "Work is ongoing now into multiple different languages to make it accessible to folks," he said. "If someone is having a difficult time navigating the process, there are opportunities to plug into the police commission here."

Penalties for Serious Offenses

When it comes to serious complaints that lead to hearings, the most common penalty for officers is the forfeiture of overtime hours. However, some penalties are more severe. During a recent meeting, Commissioner Heather Campbell raised a critical point: only four percent of officers convicted of serious offenses are fired from the service.

Campbell, a licensed professional engineer, drew a comparison to her own profession, noting that she wouldn't be able to work at all with a criminal charge. Katherine Murphy responded, explaining the complexity of the issue. "It is very difficult to terminate a police officer, and that's justified in many circumstances. We put police officers in situations where they're lawfully placed to begin with. So, it's a tough job, and while there needs to be accountability, there also needs to be scrutiny before we jump to conclusions," Murphy said.

Other penalties officers can face include a reduction in rank and suspension without pay.

The Numbers

Last year, there were 250 formal complaints made about CPS officers. The use of body-worn cameras and other supportive measures have played a crucial role in handling these complaints more efficiently.

Encouraging Transparency and Accountability

CPS’s initiatives to streamline the complaint resolution process and support both officers and complainants are steps in the right direction. The use of body-worn cameras stands out as a particularly effective measure, providing clear evidence that accelerates the resolution process.

As CPS continues to improve its processes and embrace transparency, it's essential to maintain a balance between holding officers accountable and understanding the complexities of their roles. The dialogue between the police service and the public they serve is critical in building trust and ensuring justice.

Do you agree with these measures? Do you think there’s more CPS can do? Share your thoughts in the comments below.