Port Coquitlam council fired shots at the federal government’s plan to equip RCMP detachments with body cams, unanimously voting to put off paying for the equipment in 2023.
Nearly all councillors said federal funds should pay for the upgrades instead of municipal taxpayers.
The motion to defer spending more than $200,000 next year, along with other next-generation services, was put forward during the adoption of the city’s annual capital plan on Dec. 13.
“I think this is, frankly, a tipping point,” said Coun. Darrell Penner. “We’ve had continuous downloading from the federal government.
“Hopefully other communities will end up taking our lead and say, ‘enough is enough.’”
The federal government announced a mandate to equip the RCMP with body worn cameras in 2020 with plans to have cameras up and recording by late 2021.
The Coquitlam RCMP detachment was asking for $1.6 million over the next five years for new equipment. These costs include new pistols, tasers, and extended range impact weapons.
While $239 million in federal funding over six years was initially made available to municipalities, long-term funding solutions have not been developed, according to the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UCBM).
Cost estimates per camera range from $2,000 to $3,000, including the cost of annual subscriptions to software systems, according to the UCBM.
Coun. Steve Darling said the pool of money to cover the program until 2024 has already dried up.
“If you’re going to put a program in, and you’re going to say we’re going to cover the program … then you have to have the money there,” Darling said. “We’re bearing the brunt of it … it doesn’t make any sense.”
The need for the expense was questioned by Coun. Glenn Pollock, who asked if there were any local statistics on incidents where body cams may have added clarity to an incident.
Staff said the RCMP doesn’t have data because a rollout of the equipment has not yet occurred.
During the 2022 municipal elections, Coun. Nancy McCurrach said that no residents expressed a desire to have Coquitlam RCMP wear body cameras while she was campaigning.
Aside from shelving the rollout next year, staff said council could petition Liberal MP Ron McKinnon to go to the federal government for an alternative source of funding.
Mayor Brad West said he was unprepared to fork out the costs for next year, adding there is not enough information available regarding the long-term costs to municipalities.
Along with the costs of enhanced 911 services to allow public intake of texts, photos and video to provide dispatchers with more information, West said the upgrades will end up costing Port Coquitlam taxpayers millions.
“(Deferring) will at least force the issue,” West said. “The alternative is to roll over and accept it.”
Many of the councillors said they want to make it clear their frustration is not directed at the RCMP, but at the federal government
“The level of thought behind (the rollout) has been very poor,” Darling said. “I hope this message goes all the way back to Parliament Hill.”
The City of Port Moody also recently put off funding for body cams for its municipal force due to the expensive price tag.
Patrick Penner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Tri-Cities Dispatch