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Boston commits to rolling out police body cameras

Mayor Walsh announced today that "the City of Boston plans to expand the body-worn camera program through a phased-in approach and the City is engaging in conversations with the police unions."

His decision comes with publication of a report by Northeastern University criminology professors, who found that the city's earlier pilot of the cameras on 100 police officers showed "mall, but meaningful benefits" in having officers wear the cameras.

Earlier, the mayor had included, and the city council approved, $2 million in the budget for the fiscal year that started last month for body-camera implementation across the entire department. The city expects the program will cost a total of $8.5 million for the first three years, with annual costs of about $3.3 million once the cameras and storage systems are full installed.

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PDF icon Northeastern body-camera report449.81 KB

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Comments

It's about time.

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What has BPD done to necessitate body camera? Explain your unwarranted statement.

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The fact that there is truly no one to police the people that are put in charge to police us is reason enough. We can keep elected officials in check enough by voting them in or out, but these people that are giving the responsibility to charge and command our society need a system of checks and balances that the body camera provides - very cheaply that as well. Police complaints drop significantly after seeing the implication of body cameras, freeing up police officers to do what they are there for...policing!

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Did you read the study and articles?

Use of force complaints have been plummeting for years without the cameras.

We are lucky to have THE best police department in the country. If anything, I think the cameras will exonerate them from the ridiculous allegations they must have to entertain.

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Body cameras will discourage people from talking with officers on the street. Whether it's risk of retaliation by criminals against witnesses, or you just don't want to end up on YouTube or Liveleaks.

Body cameras will also eventually provide surveillance footage and data to more questionable federal agencies.

One near-future example that's easy to understand, under an administration like the current one, is federal real-time face recognition from local police body cams. Deploying locally-based ICE to go arrest the person who was providing witness information to the local police officer. Or an enforceable order for the local police to arrest the person. Even if the local community considers that person a good community member, not a problem. The facial recognition doesn't even have to work, since false positives can destroy families and communities, and that could even be the goal of a mean-spirited administration.

Once you build the surveillance infrastructure, you can't say no to how some officials will use it.

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There already IS surveillance infrastructure everywhere in the city, both in fixed cameras and in cruiser-mounted cameras. Body cameras only have the memory capacity to store short clips so the amount of data that can be saved is small, and the data is only available at the end of the day when the camera is physically wired up to a computer. The only group exposed to liability is cops, and it's about time for that to happen

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The public cameras are far from everywhere and, no, Boston Police cruisers do not have cameras.

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Hello. I’m a police officer in Boston and this is 100% accurate. I speak another language and many illegal citizens are terrified to speak to us given the current political climate. I always have to remind them that it is the BPD’s policy to not enforce immigration laws and that we aren’t going to have ICE kicking down there doors in a few hours.

They remain somewhat hesitant, but most finally speak to me and tell me what they witnessed.

Cameras are going to destroy that.

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You may be the greatest cop on the force. But many of your colleagues aren't. The study was done. Your colleagues stop racial minorities for questioning and pat-downs far more frequently than whites. This leads to a discrimination in who goes to jail.

Cameras are going to either keep these colleagues in check or provide the evidence of those that need further training to prevent such racist mentalities to bias their decisions.

https://www.aclum.org/en/ending-racist-stop-and-frisk

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Hello, cop again.

I have been an officer for 12 years now and have really only seen one incident that troubled me. It was committed by another fellow minority. One out of the tens of thousands of interactions I have seen and been a part of is pretty good, I think. And we talked to that officer privately and told him never to treat people like that ever again.

I’m not even remotely close to the best cop in the BPD. I’m overall good, but we have some pretty impressive people on our department.

Oh also, I’m not going to click on your link. Just wanted to let you know.

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Your willingness to ignore what the department has done as a whole which is described in that link while relying instead on your own anecdotes is exactly why you need cameras.

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Accountability. They could do most things right, but the people of Boston still require a way to hold the arm of the state accountable.

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Just because the BPD isn't as incompetent and corrupt as most police forces in the US doesn't mean they are close to perfect. Why are you against accountability and access to more information? Look around offices, stores, restaurants and you'll see cameras watching employees everywhere. Cops aren't special and with their high pay, benefits and access to lethal force should come high scrutiny.

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I've heard that some LEOs oppose bodycams because it impacts the power they are afforded to decide to follow police procedure or let someone off with just a warning.

Of course just look at how people behave in traffic here and you get an idea of how most them don't consider getting caught and punished to be a possibility.

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The problem is that, as a group, they "let someone off with just a warning" far more often if the perpetrator is white, or not poor, etc.

Nobody's going to review this footage and call out a cop who is letting most/everyone who blocks the box off with a warning. But if the cop is letting the 2018 BMWs off with a warning but yanking out the beat-to-hell Corolla owners then yeah, that's exactly what we should be looking to retrain.

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The way I'm reading it, it should be "small, but meaningful benefits" when you were referring to the BPD wearing the body cameras.

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Mall was shown in said body cameras?

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If the Massachusetts State Police wore body cameras most of the footage would be of them napping or playing golf while collecting overtime pay.

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If Northeastern believes that body cameras are such a good idea shouldn't they equip their own police with them. I would hope the Boston City Council passes a city ordinance that all police officers including MSP and Transit who work in the city be equipped with body cameras.

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If Northeastern believes that body cameras are such a good idea shouldn't they equip their own police with them.

Universities are not monolithic organizations. The entire point of the tenure system is so that faculty can publish research with which university administrators might disagree, even vehemently so, without censorship. For an example of what can happen when this system partially breaks down, see the NYTimes's recent article Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf Scientist?

The Northeastern professors who compiled this report at the city's request and the administrators who run Northeastern's campus police department are from different business units of the university. That isn't to say that the administrators can't read the research published by their faculty and implement it where and as it makes sense for the campus, but it's not like you have a unified organization hypocritically saying things out of one side of its mouth on one hand while acting differently on the other.

If the standard for publication was "All levels of a university's administration must review, agree with, and act upon a given research paper before it can be released," what would that look like? Would the nutrition department have to hold back on releasing new studies until contracts with campus dining hall vendors can be renegotiated to reflect the newest science? What if two faculty members from the same department want to publish conflicting papers? Who wins? This is why we have the tenure system and attempts to ensure academic freedom.

Oh, and as I understand it, the Northeastern report was based specifically on a pilot study of cameras worn by BPD officers. It's City of Boston-specific, not a generalized report on body camera usage by any policing agency anywhere, nor even any policing agency in or near the city of Boston.

None of this is to say I necessarily disagree with your proposals. Requiring State Police and MBTA Police to wear body cameras seems sensible to me, though I don't know if that's the sort of thing that the Boston City Council could mandate & enforce. University/college police departments are possibly a different question. Though, again, it depends on the given university. (For example, not all university police department arm their officers, though I believe that Northeastern campus safety officers do carry firearms.)

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