Boston Police union pushes back against body cameras

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The union representing Boston’s police officers have successfully delayed the implementation of a body camera program that was set to begin Friday.

The union contends that the department is violating their collective bargaining contract. Police unions across the country are contesting wide-spread mandates to equip officers with cameras that record their every move. Police officers are under a microscope following a series of high profile officer-involved shootings. The rise of groups such as Black Lives Matter only adds to the privacy concerns of officers and their families.

Across the country, law enforcement agencies are equipping officers with body cameras, as part of $75 million from the Obama administration to purchase 50,000 body cameras for state and local law enforcement agencies.

Studies on how body cameras influence police behavior are still few and far between. One study from the Journal of Experimental Criminology in September 2015, used data from the Mesa Police Department in Arizona to determine how body cameras influenced the contact between police officers and members of the public. The survey found officers who wore the body cameras issued 23.1 percent more citations for ordinance violations and initiated 13.5 percent more interactions with citizens than counterparts who did not wear the body cameras.

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans negotiated for months with the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association on an initiative to outfit 100 police officers with body cameras for a six month period. The Department and the police union agreed in July to equip 100 officers with body cameras on a voluntary basis.

Civil rights leaders criticized the voluntary nature of the program, arguing that only officers with a clean record would volunteer, which would lead to inaccurate data. According to the Associated Press, not a single officer volunteered for the program, leading to a controversial decision by the Department to randomly select 100 officers to wear the cameras.

100 officers were randomly selected by a consultant and notified on Aug. 17 that they would be a part of the 6 month pilot program, which was set to begin Sept. 2. The police union filed an injunction, requesting that a judge delay the pilot program, arguing that the decision to force officers to wear the body camera was not a part of the terms violated their collective bargaining agreement. The union asserted that the agreement was to equip officers who volunteered for the program.

Following the announcement that the program would be delayed for at least two weeks while a judge considers the injunction, a lawyer for the police union told journalists that the union is, “supportive of the [body camera] program, but you can’t have a process where you spend eight months negotiating an agreement, then when one thing doesn’t go as expected, everything gets thrown away.”

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