Body camera rollout in FY19 city budget

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh has put the city’s police department on course to have a permanent body-worn camera program in place as soon as this summer.

Walsh’s proposal to add $14.6 million to the police budget in his proposed Fiscal Year ‘19 budget sets aside $2 million for a body camera program. A pilot body camera program last year showed some positive results – with slight declines in the number of civilian complaints against police wearing body cameras – though a final results of the pilot program are forthcoming.

Oren Nimni, an attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, said body camera footage can lead to the truth in cases where police narratives conflict with those of victims.

“Body camera footage allows communities to hold the police accountable, and also police to know that there’s an additional check on them, there’s an additional mechanism for accountability, so they’re a little more cognizant of what they’re doing when they’re out in the field,” Nimni said.

Northeastern University will soon release the results of a study into the body camera pilot program.

Segun Idowu, co-founder of the Boston Police Camera Action Team, is also pleased, but added that important questions remain: Which officers will wear the cameras? In what neighborhoods? And who will store – and who will have access to – the body camera footage?

Idowu said he wants his group to have a seat at the table in the development of a body camera policy, and so far there’s been no indication from the mayor’s office that this will happen.

“I would hate for the mayor to write a policy behind closed doors with BPD officials and the union, and then show it to us and then create another dramatic saga of what this program will look like,” Idowu said.