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Boston cops on Monday reluctantly launched a six-month body cam pilot program after a state judge told the police union that making the decision to wear them “is a non-arbitrable management right.”
As many as 100 of the city’s 1,500 patrol officers are being assigned a camera after a judge set aside the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association’s (BPPA) edict that its union members not wear them until the demand is included in the union membership’s contract.
The union had brought litigation (PDF), which ended Friday with a decision (PDF) by Douglas Wilkins, a Suffolk County Superior Court judge. He ruled it was up to Police Commissioner William Evans, not the union, as to whether the Boston Police Department would become the latest agency to deploy body-worn cameras (BWCs). “[T]he court sees no defensible distinction between the non-delegable decisions regarding uniform, weapons, duties and assignments and the other in this case to wear BWCs as part of the standard equipment and mission of officers participating in the Pilot Program,” he wrote.
Body cams have become all the rage in the wake of the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, as well as the other shooting deaths of unarmed African-American men by police. Many police departments across the nation now arm their officers with body cams.

This has created a YouTube society of sorts, in which both the public—armed with mobile phone cameras—and the police are constantly surveilling one another.

A recent study found that most police departments plan to deploy body cams at some point.
Meanwhile, the union representing Boston’s police officers cited a recent RAND study and argued that the cameras were an unnecessary risk to officers in the street, making them more subject to assault.

The judge did not agree. “At best, in the Court’s view, the state of the research is inconclusive, particularly to the implementation of BWCs in Boston.

That in itself is reason to conduct the Pilot Program here,” the judge ruled.
Union President Patrick Rose said in a statement that the membership “is still committed to working with the city and the department to make sure the citizens of Boston get a body worn camera pilot program that does what it is supposed to do, while respecting the rights of citizens and police officers alike.”
According to Wilkins’ ruling, in June the union sent out this message to its members:

The position of the BPPA is that NOBODY in the BPPA membership should volunteer for this program.
If you are ordered to wear the camera, you should obey the order and notify the BPPA leadership immediately.

This is a change of working conditions and needs to be bargained.

Under Boston’s body camera policy, officers are required to activate the devices to record their dealings with the public, like during vehicle stops and during arrests.

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