As the embattled six-month police body camera pilot program nears completion, Boston Police Commissioner Bill Evans says he’s hoping to extend the trial and anticipates the cooperation of Boston’s largest police union.
“We’ve started to talk to [Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association] and they haven’t really fought back on this,” Evans said during an interview with Boston Public Radio Tuesday. “They’ve seen how it’s used in a positive manner, whether it’s diffusing the crowd when they’ve been surrounded by angry crowds or having a gun arrest on video tape, I think they haven’t gotten a lot of complaints from their membership.”
Evans’ confidence in union cooperation comes after a long history of conflict; back in July, The union reached an agreement with the city to create a volunteer body camera program for police officers, yet — mysteriously — not one officer volunteered. Evans fired back with a mandatory six-month assignment, and the union responded by a lawsuit, requesting an injunction to prevent the mandatory program from going into effect. The request was denied by a Suffolk County Superior Court Judge, who cited the 1962 ‘Commissioner’s Statute’ which gives Evans unilateral power over how officers are deployed, and what equipment they wear — including cameras.
“I never thought they were opposed so much to the whole idea, it’s just that change is tough to come by,” Evans told WGBH. “I think they’ve seen that it’s not such a bad thing.”
According to Evans, the extension would allow Northeastern University researchers more time to evaluate the benefits of body cameras, should they be permanently implemented year-round. “We’ve had it through more of the quieter months, not in the summer when we’re busiest,” he said. “If we extend it, it will give a better snapshot of every month of the year and how the officers interact.”
I never thought they were opposed so much to the whole idea, it's just that change is tough to come by.
In an interview with Boston Public Radio on Jan. 24, Mayor Walsh, a former union leader, expressed his support for negotiation an extension on the pilot.
“I think there’s an opportunity here for us to really kind of clean the slate a little bit, and since the program has been in place, I haven’t really heard a lot of pushback from officers — I think that’s key,” Walsh said. “... [Boston Police Union President] Pat Rose has an obligation as a union head to represent his members — I didn’t agree with the letter he wrote — but he has an obligation to push for his members. If we can all sit in a room and talk about doing a potential extension, it could be helpful.”
After 18 weeks, the department has captured 13,634 videos and 1,905 hours of footage, an average of 108 videos per day over the 100 officers included in the program, Evans announced during a City Council meeting Thursday night in Mattapan. “We got a lot of input from the community,” Evans said about the meeting. “Some people wanted it extended, some didn’t.”
When asked if he would take the union to court, should they resist the extension, Evans said, “If we decided, absolutely.”
To hear Commissioner Evans full interview with Boston Public Radio, click on the audio link above.