Boston, MA– Boston’s plan to implement a body-worn camera program for police officers was officially announced last August, and as of this week, the Boston Police Department is issuing body cam equipment to officers, reports Boston 25 News. BPD will begin the roll out at departments in Dorchester and South Boston where officers will receive training on the police-worn body camera equipment next week.
After a one-year trial of police-worn body cameras on a small sampling of officers, a report indicated “small but meaningful” positive impacts on police interactions with the public. There was a small reduction in the number of civilian complaints against police officers and fewer use of force reports, for example.
In a statement last year, Boston Police Commissioner William Gross said: “The Body Worn Camera Pilot process and study have been very important in understanding firsthand what members of the community believe will help the city move forward and how technology can play a role. I look forward to the opportunity to lead our officers in adding this program to our community policing strategy and strengthening relationships across this city."
Not all officers will be wearing body cams; the program will begin with 400 cameras for now. The city’s initial estimation was that the first three years of the body cam program would cost $8.5 million, with annual costs after that at $3.3 million. These numbers are preliminary and may vary depending on several factors. Mayor Walsh’s office budgeted $2 million for the city’s body cam program this fiscal year (ending June 30). Next year, the budget will be $2.5 million.
This week, the Worcester Police Department began its own body cam pilot program, providing cameras for 20 Worcester police officers who volunteered to participate. Worcester Police Chief Steven M. Sargent said in a statement: “We hope to use our body cameras to increase transparency, resolve complaints, de-escalate volatile situations, and improve our training.”
There are conflicting opinions about the effectiveness of police body cams. Commonwealth Magazine cited a March 2019 study by George Mason University researchers who reviewed 70 studies on body-worn cameras. The research concluded that there is mixed evidence on whether body cameras have an impact on use of force by police.
The Boston police officer’s union fought the implementation of body cams, taking the matter to court in 2016. Michael Leary, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, has stated that the union remains opposed to the use of police-worn body cams because the programs have not been proven successful and because the funding could be used elsewhere.