08/19/2013 11:22 EDT | Updated 10/19/2013 05:12 EDT

Outdated laws handcuff cops facing online crime, say chiefs

Some 400 police chiefs from forces across Canada are in Winnipeg for an annual conference this week.

One of the things delegates at the 108th annual Conference of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) will look at is social media and the outdated laws that hinder police dealing with online crimes.

“It still remains that police are governed by laws created in the 1970s when lawmakers could not envisage today’s use of computers, mobile devices and social media," CACP president Jim Chu told reporters ahead of the conference's start on Monday.

"The internet continues to be a safe-haven for those who choose to exploit the technology."

He said the CACP supports recent efforts by the Nova Scotia government and the federal, provincial and territorial justice and public safety ministers to deal with cyberbullying and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images online.

But “in order for those in law enforcement to pursue the intent of such important initiatives, we need to ensure that criminal activity committed through new technologies can be effectively investigated and prosecuted," Chu said.

"This requires Telecommunications Service Providers (TSPs) to preserve data while law enforcement obtains a judicially-authorized warrant to request the production of that data. It also requires that TSPs have the capability to be intercepted through judicially authorized warrants."

Sharing insights

The conference, which takes place over the next three days at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, allows police forces from across the country to work through challenges and share insights.

"It just allows all of them, chiefs, to get together and discuss those issues and what initiatives each police service is taking — how it's working," said Det.-Sgt. Jacqueline Chaput of the Winnipeg Police Service.

“There’s going to be a lot of conversation about social media and the implications it could have, or already has had, on police services and how we manage our resources — our people — and how we manage our messaging."

While a great majority of police services throughout Canada have invested resources in social media, Chu said all agencies can no longer afford not to engage in it.

“The use of social media provides police services with a tremendous means to communicate with the public, not just through a broadcast of information, but also as a means of engaging in two-way dialogue," Chu told reporters.

"It enhances trust and confidence in policing and helps foster greater relationships, in real-time, with the communities we serve."

The CACP is expected to release specific resolutions coming out of the conference.