Boston Police Union Takes Body-Cam Fight to Court

     BOSTON (CN) — The Boston Police union has brought their fight against body cameras to court, seeking to halt the city’s proposed camera pilot.
     The Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association sued the city of Boston in Suffolk Superior Court, claiming that the city’s plan to require 100 officers to participate in a six-month body camera pilot violates the agreement between both parties that the pilot would be voluntary.
     The union says that requiring officers to wear body cameras is a negotiable policy, which would have to be covered by still-ongoing labor negotiations.
     Waiting for a finalized labor agreement would likely stall implementation of the program, considering that the last few labor contracts between the city and the police union were approved much later that the expiration of previous terms. The city’s previous agreement, which covered 2013 and just expired this past June, was not approved until mid-2014 — six months after its predecessor had expired.
     The two parties finally agreed to a side deal that only pertained to the body camera pilot, which included only the use of volunteer officers who would be given a $500 stipend for participation. At the union’s urging, the city increased the program to include 100 officers from 50, and the city allowed an “off-the-record” agreement for program participants to view their own footage before preparing any official incident reports or statements, according to the complaint.
     The mayor’s office, police department and union issued a joint press release in July, announcing that they had reached an agreement to start the six-month body camera pilot program.
     “The BPPA believes that a pilot program will enable the department and the union to evaluate whether body cameras contribute to officer safety, provide useful evidence for criminal prosecutions and help to foster positive relations with the citizens of and visitors to the city of Boston,” union president Patrick Rose said in the release. “The BPPA also believes that this pilot program will showcase, to all of the citizens of Boston, the fine work that our members do on a day to day basis.”
     Despite the positive tone, the union remained skeptical about the program, according to the complaint. The most recent issue of its quarterly newsmagazine Pax Centurion featured an editorial from union secretary Christopher Broderick, arguing that body cameras would prevent officers from using discretion to let people off the hook for minor violations.
     Broderick also questioned whether the push for body cameras was part of a larger ill-conceived movement toward greater surveillance in general.
     “As a citizen I would wonder where it will stop. Will our city councilors have to wear them while they are working in their official capacities to ensure everything is above board?” he wrote. “I think political corruption is as rare as excessive force in this community.”
     The pilot was open for volunteers from mid-July to August 2, but no officer came forward.
     In response to the city’s request that Rose reach out to his union membership to encourage more officers to volunteer, Rose sent out a statement to members that “the union believes it is important that this pilot program be voluntary and officers interested in volunteering should do so,” according to the complaint.
     Still no officers volunteered, so Police Commissioner Bill Evans said that he would probably have to select 100 officers to become noncompulsory participants.
     In response, the union sued on Aug. 26 to block implementation of the program.
     A representative for the mayor declined to comment on the ongoing case, as did representatives from the union and the police department.
     The union is represented by John Becker, Susan Horwitz and Daniel Fogerty of Sandulli Grace.

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