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Start Of Boston Police Body Camera Pilot Program Pushed Back

Boston Police Department's body camera pilot program is supposed to start in September, but the police union has filed an injunction to try to stop the city from forcing officers to wear the cameras. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)
Boston Police Department's body camera pilot program is supposed to start in September, but the police union has filed an injunction to try to stop the city from forcing officers to wear the cameras. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)
This article is more than 6 years old.

A long-awaited pilot program to equip 100 Boston police officers with body cameras will be delayed, according to the police department and an attorney representing the department's largest union.

Attorney John Becker, who represents the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, said the pilot program was supposed to start this Friday, but the start date has been pushed back.

In a statement to WBUR, the Boston Police Department said the pilot program will now begin Sept. 12.

"Although Commissioner [William] Evans had planned on starting the program this week, the parties have agreed to push the start date out to September 12th," Boston police spokeswoman Myeshia Henderson said in an email.

Later Wednesday, Becker denied that the union has agreed to the specific Sept. 12 start date.

Becker said a court hearing that had been scheduled for Thursday regarding the union's injunction to halt the program has been canceled and rescheduled.

"We wanted to make sure the court had plenty of time to consider all the issues and make a decision prior to the start of the body camera pilot program," Becker said.

The Suffolk Superior Court clerk's office said the two sides — the city and the union — met Tuesday and an evidentiary hearing has been scheduled for next week, on Tuesday. The clerk's office said the hearing that had been planned for this week was rescheduled due to a scheduling issue.

The police union is objecting to the city assigning officers to wear body cameras, saying the program was supposed to be voluntary. The city decided to assign the body cameras after no officers volunteered for the pilot program. The union and the city had reached an agreement in July to launch a pilot program in which participation would be voluntary.

Last Friday, the police union filed an injunction to halt the pilot program. The move came after the Boston Police Department began assigning the body cameras and the officers began training.

"We want the judge to issue an injunction and stop the program from going forward until the parties can either go through the collectively bargained arbitration process that we’ve agreed to, or until the parties can sit down and renegotiate an agreement about the body cameras that everyone is comfortable with," Becker said.

The latest delay in the pilot program is frustrating activists who say the police department has been too slow to adopt the technology.

"This program is to see if these tools actually work and how effective it is in our communities," said Segun Idowu, a co-organizer of the community group Boston Police Camera Action Team (BPCAT). "If they don’t even want that to happen I can’t even keep myself from laughing because of how ridiculous this is."

Idowu's group has been pushing for body cameras since it formed in 2014 after the death of Michael Brown during a police confrontation in Ferguson, Missouri. He said he doesn't feel the union is cooperating.

"It’s really just an embarrassing ploy on the part of the union leadership to do everything they can to stop this program that is supposed to keep everybody safe and create the accountability that their own officers want," Idowu said. "They don’t want to be labeled as bad cops and they want to get rid of the bad ones just as much as everybody else."

Becker, the police union attorney, said the union supports the body camera pilot program and has been cooperating with the city. In a statement late Wednesday, the mayor's spokeswoman Bonnie McGilpin said "the city is fully prepared to implement the program immediately."

But the move to get a police body camera pilot program in Boston has faced several delays.

Boston police first announced last September that it would launch a body camera pilot program. In April, Boston police released more details, saying it would equip 100 officers with body cameras as part of a six-month pilot program set to begin in July. That was delayed as the city negotiated with the union. In mid-July the city announced it had reached an agreement with the union, with hopes of starting the program in August. But no officers volunteered. By mid-August, police officers were instead assigned cameras and began training last week with plans to launch the pilot at the start of September. And now with pending litigation in the matter, the launch has been pushed back.

This article was originally published on August 31, 2016.

This segment aired on August 31, 2016.


Zeninjor Enwemeka Senior Business Reporter
Zeninjor Enwemeka is a senior business reporter who covers business, tech and culture as part of WBUR's Bostonomix team, which focuses on the innovation economy.



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