Frequently Asked Questions
Body-worn cameras provide an unbiased, independent account of police/community interactions. They are an investment in the Toronto Police Service’s commitment to delivering accountable and transparent policing services. Whether they are used to legitimize an engagement between an officer and a member of the public, provide evidence in court, or offer an unbiased alternative to allegations of misconduct, every frontline police officer will be equipped with a body-worn camera.
The deployment of body-worn cameras is governed by the Supreme Court of Canada decision, R v Duarte. This means any surreptitious recording of an individual by the police, without authorization from the courts, is considered unreasonable search and seizure and a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Implementation began in August 2020 following approval from the Police Services Board. As of January 2021, 607 frontline officers have been using the cameras during their interactions with the public. We anticipate implementation across all divisions will be complete by October 2021.
A police officer will turn on the body-worn camera prior to arriving at a call for service; when they start investigating an individual; or when they are asking a person questions for the purpose of collecting their information. A police officer will turn off the body-worn camera when the call for service or investigation is complete or when the officer determines that continuous recording is no longer serving its intended purpose.
All officers will have the body worn camera in plain view, and the camera has lights and notices indicating it has been activated. Officers are trained to give notice as soon as reasonably possible that a body worn camera is in operation. The timing of this notice may vary depending on the context of the encounter.
The only time a request to turn off a body-worn camera will be actioned is when a police officer has been given permission to enter a private home and the person granting permission has made the request. This can happen before the officer enters the private home or at any time during the officer’s presence in the private home.
Axon Canada is providing a complete solution that includes hardware, software, storage, training, and ongoing support for the Program. The total cost is $34 million for five years, including an option for an additional year.
The officers will undergo training online and at the Toronto Police College. This training covers both the theory behind body-worn cameras in addition to technical training about how to operate the cameras.
Yes, a procedure has been approved and it provides officers with operational direction that includes but is not limited to recording in private and public places; retention and security of videos; and responsibilities for supervisors and Unit Commanders.
Like any other allegation of misconduct, complaints can be made to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director. Once investigated, officers may face any number of disciplinary actions, up to and including dismissal.
We know that only proper use of body-worn cameras will enhance public trust and legitimacy while improper use will have the opposite, detrimental effect on police/community relations. As a result, any officer found to be in non-compliance with the procedure will face a minimum penalty of eight hours lost pay. This penalty increase to a minimum of 16 hours of lost pay for supervisors who are found to be in non-compliance.
In response to the Police Services Board’s recommendations on police reform, along with our ongoing commitment to transparency, we held public consultations on our BWC procedure and decided to make it available to the public. By doing so we hope to foster public trust around the use of BWCs. These cameras are valuable tools that support and reinforce our commitment to delivering accountable and transparent police services.
The Service participated in a comprehensive procurement process, which included written proposals; environmental testing; field evaluations and demonstrations. The process was overseen by a Fairness Commissioner.
The body-worn camera data will be stored for a minimum of one year unless there is a reason to retain it longer, such as for court purposes or an ongoing investigation. If kept for this purpose, the retention period is governed by City of Toronto by-laws and other legal requirements.
The body-worn camera data will be stored in a Canadian-based cloud system. This means data stored in the cloud will remain in Canada. As part of the procurement process, a Privacy Impact Assessment was completed by the Toronto Police Service and shared with the Information & Privacy Commissioner.
At the end of every shift, a police officer will take their body-worn camera and dock it at one of the porting stations in their unit/division. Once docked, the data will automatically be uploaded to the cloud.
Recorded data cannot be altered or deleted at any time. It can be viewed in real-time by the recording officer on their Connected Officer device. It can also be viewed by the officer and their supervisor once it has been uploaded to the cloud.
Only the staff at Video Services will be permitted to edit/vet the body-worn camera data, as per Service procedures covering video recordings. The original, unedited version will always be available.
All body-worn camera data will be considered as part of the standard process for disclosure as dictated by R v Stinchcombe, meaning body-worn camera data will be part of the full and fair disclosure the Crown Attorney is obligated to provide to defense.
An officer will make their notes in compliance with standard operating procedures. If, after reviewing the video, an addition to the notes is needed, an addendum can be done that includes a reference to the review of body-worn camera footage.
The battery in a body-worn camera will last an entire 12-hour shift.
Yes, the technology does have transcription capabilities.
No. The technology does not automatically identify individuals using facial recognition, or compare images to any database.
The health impacts of wearing a body-worn camera are similar to carrying any cellular device. There are no studies that show a direct link between wearing a body-worn camera and health impacts.
The Body-Worn Camera Working Group has been working closely with the Information & Privacy Commissioner of Ontario on various issues of privacy. Police officers will be trained on how to manage situations that may be sensitive in nature. Appropriate vetting and editing of body-worn camera data will be done for disclosure purposes, as required.
Officers will be trained to be aware of interactions with the public that may be sensitive in nature, such as when children are present, during a sexual assault or domestic violence investigation, or when a person is in a state of undress. Body-worn cameras will typically not be used in hospitals, places of worship, schools, etc. Recording in private locations is only permitted in exigent circumstances.
The Service has taken significant steps to ensure the security of the video once it’s been recorded. These include, but are not limited to:
- recordings are encrypted when captured
- recordings cannot be edited, altered, or deleted from the camera
- secure and encrypted uploading from the camera to storage
- security authentication steps in place to ensure only those with authorized access can view recordings once uploaded
- automatic purging of videos based on established retention schedules
- redaction abilities for recordings required for disclosure purposes
Any request to view or edit the data must be made through the relevant provisions of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA). Videos will only be deleted in accordance with retention periods.
Officers will make every reasonable effort to capture only the relevant incident for which the body worn camera is in operation. Machine learning is used to blur out parts of the video which could compromise the privacy of members and the public.
It is expected that some materials captured by the body worn cameras could be used by the Toronto Police Service to improve performance and to provide necessary training. However, any video that is used in this way will be vetted to ensure the privacy of all individuals.
Unlike the United States, there are significant privacy implications in Canada that govern the Toronto Police Service’s ability to release video from the body-worn cameras. If it was determined that a video may protect the public and/or further an investigation, it may be vetted for release in the same way security videos are released. In every case, the privacy of victims and uninvolved members of the public will always be considered.