“We’re going to take the next step now,” Lieutenant Detective Michael McCarthy recently told The Boston Globe about the city’s initiative to outfit 100 officers with body cameras for a six month pilot. After months of union negotiations, McCarthy said not a single officer has volunteered for the program—even after being offered $500 bonuses for participating. Starting today, they’re being assigned, and officers who don’t comply will face disciplinary action.
Video has become an increasingly crucial tool for capturing and publicizing police shootings. Last month, an officer’s body camera captured the lengthy foot chase of Chicago teenager Paul O’Neal before he was fatally shot in his back. But critics point to some drawbacks of body cameras and the policies that govern their use. Some officers have claimed that body cameras deter informants and witnesses of other types of incidents from speaking to the police, while civilians view body cameras as an empty gesture if officers aren’t truly forced to utilize them (and properly). The high-profile killing of Alton Sterling in the parking lot of a Baton Rouge, Louisiana gas station, for example, was only captured on video because a bystander recorded it via smartphone—the two officers who attacked Sterling claimed their body cameras had fallen off.
Boston PD officials expect local police unions to challenge the programs new mandate in court. We were unable to reach the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, the city’s primary police union, for comment.JJM