Boston Leaders Discuss Body Cameras for Police Officers

There was a contentious debate Wednesday night before the Boston City Council.

Should the Boston Police Department wear body cameras?

Carol Rose of the Massachusetts American Civil Liberties Union said, among the 25 largest cities in America, only four, including Boston, have yet to adopt some type of body-worn camera or pilot body-camera program.

She called it "shameful."

Boston Police Commissioner William Evans called the ACLU "hypocritical."

"I love the ACLU, but they won't let us put cameras on buildings, they won't let us put cameras out in the public, but they want us to wear body cameras," he said. "It's very hypocritical."

Boston City Councilman Charles Yancey drafted the ordinance proposing the body cameras. No vote is scheduled yet.

"My position is that we're getting blamed for what's happening across the country. I think we do a great job with community policing. I think working with the community is the solution here, not putting a gadget on someone's lapel," he said. "That's not going to solve the relationship between the African American community and police."

Wednesday night the public also weighed in.

"Sixty-three percent of stops have happened to constituents of color," said one speaker.

"Recent cases in the city reveal the benefits of video surveillance," said another.

However, Boston Police Superintendent in-chief William Gross says the people who turned out Wednesday aren't the same people who he says he hears from on the street.

"I haven't had many people at all mention body cameras. In fact, the other way," he said. "That if we were wearing body cameras, they would definitely not talk to us."

Mayor Marty Walsh was not at the hearing but says both he and the commissioner are looking into the cameras and say they're only "one tool" in police work, and do not address the fundamental problems of inequity.

"At this point, I think we can do better than the $3 million, I think, that it costs to implement it," said Commissioner Evans.

The ACLU fired back.

"It's not a choice between having ice cream trucks, having basketball games and also having body-worn cameras, that's a false choice that you should all reject," said Rose.

No vote has been scheduled yet, but if it does pass out of City Council, it would then get to Mayor Walsh's desk.

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