Boston Police are rolling out the first phase of the city-wide body camera program on Monday, starting in Dorchester and South Boston police districts.
Officers in the C-6 and C-11 districts and the Youth Violence Strike Force started training with the cameras in early May. The phased program will begin in those districts on June 3, and 193 officers are expected to wear cameras as the roll out starts. Axon is the chosen camera vendor, police said in a post on Friday evening.
A new 12-page policy accompanies the rollout, laying out requirements including camera training for police, when recording will take place, appropriate uses for the footage, and plans for retaining the hours of video generated by the cameras.
At the end of 2017, a one-year camera pilot program wrapped up. One hundred randomized officers in districts B-2 in Roxbury, B-3 in Mattapan and Dorchester, D-4 in the South End, D-14 in Brighton, E-18 in Hyde Park, and members of the Youth Violence Strike Force were matched up to compare the types of interactions of camera-wearing officers against a control group without them.
A full report released in late 2018 showed small reductions in citizen complaints and use of force complaints. Walsh said at the time that the city would move into a “phased in” approach.
"Body cameras are an important tool that will support the transformative progress we have made in community policing, and further build trust and positive relationships between law enforcement officers and community members. I want to thank the Boston Police Department for their continued partnership in moving this forward," said Walsh in a statement Friday.
There was no public opportunity for additional community input into the body camera policy after the release of the full report. The city did not provide details on how the first phase police districts were chosen.
“While I’m glad that there is movement on implementation of a permanent body cameras program, I am deeply disappointed in the lack of community process in establishing the body-work camera policy and the district selection process,” said City Council President Andrea Campbell, who has been among those pushing for body cameras. “Twice I called for a hearing to review the results of the 2017-18 pilot program and give the public an opportunity to weigh in on a permanent policy, which the Administration failed to schedule.”
As laid out in the policy, cameras should be rolling during the vast majority of on-the-job interactions – from initial response through pursuit and transport. In most cases, officers do not need express consent to record, and iIf a civilian requests the officer stop recording, the officer(s) has no obligation to stop recording if the officer is recording an occurrence [set out in the policy].”
Exceptions are built in to protect personal privacy, such as occupants requesting the recording stop in private homes without a warrant, but officers are expected to let operations know. In areas with reasonable expectations of privacy, like locker rooms or medical facilities, the officers have the discretion to stop recording, redirect the camera, or only record audio.
“The officer must be able to articulate the reason for his/her decision to exercise discretion,” the policy states.
Guidelines for keeping camera footage range from 30 days for test and training footage; 90 days for incidents like public safety events or traffic stops; three years for person or premise investigations and misdemeanors that did not end in arrests, seven years for use of force incidents, arrests, or felonies with no arrests; and indefinite for death investigations, use of deadly force incidents, and sexual assaults or abused persons.
The videos may be retained for longer on a case-by-case basis, according to the policy.
Police can use body camera material “only for legitimate law enforcement reasons,” the policy states. “They shall not use data, images, video recordings, audio recordings, or metadata for personal reasons, or non-law enforcement reasons.”
The material should not be used to “ridicule or embarrass” anyone in it or be disseminated unless approved. Officers cannot copy or reproduce it.
As far as those outside the Boston Police Department are concerned, the policy says prosecutors would make requests directly to the Video Evidence Unit. That unit would also respond to public information requests “in accordance with all applicable state laws and regulations.”
Read the full policy at bpdnews.com.