Delta police targeting gangs and gang affiliates are now the first front-line officers in B.C. regularly using body-worn cameras.
On Friday afternoon (May 21), the Delta Police Department announced that members of its recently-launched gang interdiction team, also called the violence suppression team, have begun to use Axon body-worn cameras as a tool to help increase officer safety.
“The team using the cameras has a mandate to intercept potential gang activity, and interact with those involved in the gang conflict,” DPD Chief Neil Dubord said in a press release. “We want to do everything we can to reduce the risk of violent behaviour by gang members.”
“We must keep our officers safe in order to keep the public safe.”
The department has been conducting a limited-use pilot project involving the body-worn cameras since January of this year, primarily using them during officer training. That pilot was scheduled to conclude at the end of this month.
On Wednesday (May 12), the Delta police board extended the pilot through to September 2021 and approved the additional use for the cameras due to the increased violence seen during the ongoing gang conflict.
“In Richmond we saw alleged gang members actually shoot at police officers following a homicide at the airport,” Delta Mayor and police board chair George Harvie said in a press release. “We wanted to make sure we were doing everything we could as a board to help safeguard both our police officers and the community. This conflict calls for swift action, so we decided to expand the pilot project.”
According to the device’s manufacturer, Axon, the board’s decision marks the first time that a front-line patrol police team in B.C. will be using body-worn cameras on a regular basis.
In the wake of a number of shootings across Metro Vancouver in recent weeks, including the fatal shooting of a corrections officer in North Delta on May 1, the Delta Police Department has taking a number of steps to try and prevent further violence in the community, using a three-pronged strategy focused on interdiction, investigation and prevention.
On Saturday, May 15, Delta police launched its new team focused on intercepting any potential gang or related activity and acting as a deterrent through a high-profile presence in public spaces, such as along Scott Road and at popular restaurants.
The team also regularly checks on individuals who must abide by curfews and release conditions.
DPD officers have stepped up visits to locations where gang members are known to frequent and report making some “informative stops” over that first weekend.
In the week since, Delta police have come into contact with a number of known gang members and affiliates, and have seized a large sword (from a driver “well known to police”), drugs and cash related to drug trafficking. Those investigations are ongoing.
“Early feedback from the public and the restaurant staff and patrons indicate that this high-visibility approach is needed and welcomed,” Dubord said.
The interdiction teams were out last night using the Delta Police Department Van for high visibility. They were doing vehicle stops looking for dial-a dopers and checking locations in the City of Delta for any type of gang activity. #PublicSafety pic.twitter.com/yB74GdLqZy
— Neil Dubord (@ChiefNeilDubord) May 15, 2021
In an update shared on the DPD’s social media channels, police announced that the violence suppression team had arrested 15 people from May 19-22, primarily for infractions under the Motor Vehicle Act and Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Over those four days, police stopped two prohibited drivers— one who they say is linked to a gang active in the current conflict — both of whom are now facing new prohibited driving charges.
One teen driver allegedly fled into oncoming traffic when police tried to stop him. Police did not pursue the teen, but did hand the vehicle’s registered owner — the teen’s father — more than $1,000 in violation tickets thanks to his son’s driving.
According to Friday’s press release, studies have shown body-worn cameras reduce the use of force by — and against — police by affecting the behaviour of individuals who are aware of the recording in progress.
In addition to helping reduce the risk of violence towards officers, police hope the cameras — which they note will be used in accordance with policy and provincial standards and with oversight from the department’s management team — will accomplish four key objectives: increasing public trust and confidence, increasing officer accountability and transparency, improving evidence documentation, and resolving complaints about alleged officer misconduct.
The eight cameras, which together cost the department about $8,600, were purchased under the DPD’s existing police equipment budget.
Friday’s press release notes that officers using the cameras follow restrictive guidelines on their use, therefore there is not expected to be significant amounts of video and the department will be able to manage digital storage requirements without additional funding.
Looking forward, the release also states that Police Records Information Management Environment (PRIME-BC), the records management system used by all police in B.C., recently announced it is developing infrastructure to manage digital evidence, and is currently working on a program to manage such evidence and the infrastructure required.