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.