Boston PD Turns to Body Cameras to Boost Transparency

This will end a years-long process of equipping officers with body cameras, a decision that continues to receive significant resistance from the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association.

by Kristin LaFratta, MassLive.com / June 4, 2019
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(TNS) —  Boston police are introducing nearly 200 body-worn cameras in several Boston neighborhoods on Monday in what the department says is a commitment to transparency.

As of Monday morning, 193 police officers assigned to districts in South Boston (District C-6), Dorchester (District C-11) and the department’s “Youth Violence Strike Force" are expected to wear body cameras.

The implementation follows a pilot program that began in 2016 and received strong criticism from the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, the union that represents patrol officers. Former Boston Police Commissioner William Evans, however, said a study of the pilot revealed beneficial results from the police body cameras.

This would end a years-long process of equipping officers in Boston with body cameras, a decision that continues to receive significant push back from the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, the union that represents patrol officers.

According to Boston police, the body cameras are intended to be used for a variety of situations including: all vehicle stops, investigative person stops or stops by probable cause, dispatched calls for service, arrests, initial suspect interviews, any initial response by patrol officers, transportation of prisoners, pat frisks, emergency driving, police chases, crowd control that could result in illegal activity and “any contact that becomes adversarial.”

Officers are given discretion to turn cameras on during any citizen contact or official duties, and are also able to turn them off in order to protect sensitive information, such as confidentiality concerns, according to Boston police.

If a police officers fails to record an entire contact or interrupts a body camera recording, even for confidentiality purposes, he or she must document that in their incident report and submit a special notification form to their duty supervisor, according to the department’s policy guidelines.

Boston police said due to limitations with cameras and camera battery life, not all officers in the designated neighborhoods will wear the body cameras. Supervisors and detectives will not wear body cameras during their assigned shifts, nor will officers working paid detail or overtime.

The program will run from May to November and 20 officers will wear cameras.

“This new technology is an opportunity to showcase and enhance the department’s commitment to transparency while further strengthening the level of trust that exists between the men and women of the Boston Police Department and our community,” the police department said in a statement.

The cameras are made by Axon, an Arizona-based company formerly known as Taser International that offered to outfit police departments with cameras in 2017. At that time, Axon sold body cameras and docking stations at a cost of roughly $400 and $200, respectively, and data storage cost about $80 each month, according to CNN.

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