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VicPD, privacy commissioner in delicate dance over licence plate cameras

Police hope to convince privacy watchdog that her report 'misses the mark'

Top cops at the Victoria Police Department are hoping to convince B.C.’s privacy watchdog that her report on the automated licence plate recognition program misses the mark.

VicPD is in discussions with the office of B.C. privacy commissioner Elizabeth Denham to address “inaccurate characterizations” contained in the report, said Insp. Steve Ing, who heads the department’s professional standards unit.

“We do, on a legal, technical basis, take issue with some of the findings that are contained in the commissioner’s report,” said Ing, who met with Denham’s assistant commissioner last week.

“But that should not be construed as we’re not complying with the recommendations,” he said.

VicPD is using cruiser-mounted RCMP cameras to scan licence plates and check them against police databases, generating “hit” data.

It allows police to identify stolen vehicles and prohibited drivers, but the system also flags registered owners involved in court action, parolees and even people associated to others with criminal records.

In November, Denham found VicPD is violating privacy rights by not immediately deleting obsolete data and by including too many non-traffic related categories to generate hits. The RCMP delete the obsolete information as they receive it daily.

VicPD’s police board voted in a closed-door meeting last month to continue to use the technology while it works with the RCMP in an attempt to comply with the commissioner’s recommendations.

Chief Jamie Graham said an RCMP officer will be attending the next police board meeting to explain to the board how the information is processed.

“In theory, we have a right to look at licence plates,” Graham told a crowd at a James Bay Neighbourhood Association meeting Jan. 9.

Ing plans to report back to the police board within two months on his discussions with the RCMP and Denham’s office.

The privacy commissioner has the legislative authority to enforce its recommendations, should it feel VicPD is not complying.