Both the municipal enforcement officer and animal control officer in Happy Valley-Goose Bay will wear body cameras.
Town council approved the use of the technology for municipal enforcement in June, but expanded the policy to include the animal control officer at their meeting on Tuesday.
Deputy Mayor Bert Pomeroy said they felt it was important for both officers to wear body cameras because they regularly deal with the public.
Pomeroy said in council's view, the camera protects both the officers and members of the public.
“It protects everyone. There have been complaints over the years where people say, ‘The town cop or animal control officer did this or did that,’ and there have been altercations. We felt there was a need.”
Neither the RCMP nor the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary use body cameras, and Happy Valley-Goose Bay may be the only municipality in Newfoundland and Labrador using them.
Pomeroy said he expects that will change.
“I think it’s a direction police forces across the country are moving in and I wouldn’t be surprised at some point that it would be mandated for all law enforcement officials to wear body cameras. That seems to be the way thing are headed,” he said.
Wabush Mayor Ron Barron said deploying body cameras is a smart move by Happy Valley-Goose Bay and wouldn’t rule out Wabush moving in that direction in the future.
Wabush only has bylaw officers, not municipal enforcement constables like Happy Valley-Goose Bay, who have additional training and can enforce other laws.
Barron said Wabush town council has been lobbying the government for additional training to allow Wabush bylaw officers to be able to enforce things such as traffic laws, and, if that were to happen, body cameras might be something council would look at doing.
“Not just to protect the public, but to protect our staff," he said. "There’s nothing wrong with having that protection. You see scenarios playing out in the media where people having body cameras showed the true story. It’s when they don’t that conflicts start and thing can escalate.”
The town had initially approved the technology for use by its officers in February, but delayed implementing it a month later.
Concerns over the collection and use of the data collected had been raised at that time by Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael Harvey.
Harvey said the provincial Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (ATIPPA) says when a public body, in this case the town, may be authorized to collect personal information for its purposes, how it uses that personal information must be at the minimum level possible.
Pomeroy said the policy had been legally vetted and council is comfortable with how it is worded.
The policy states that only the officers and town manager have access to playback, copying and disclosing of recorded data, and the mayor and councillors have access only to playback of the data.
All files that haven’t been viewed in 90 days are to be deleted.
Pomeroy said as far as he’s aware the town hasn’t received any feedback from the public since the cameras have been brought in.
Evan Careen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram