The city reached an agreement with the police union earlier this summer, asking for 100 volunteers to wear body cameras for a six-month pilot program, using a $500 bonus as an incentive. So far, no Boston cops have volunteered and the September 9 launch date is fast approaching.
Walsh said yesterday, "It is a voluntary program, however, if officers don’t step up to do it or if we don’t get a sufficient amount of officers to do it, we’re going to be putting them out there on officers."
"We’re making this a directive," he added. "They have to wear them." The mayor also said he would not raise the bonus amount.
— Push'A TweeT (@MhDaDon) August 17, 2016
Patrick M. Rose, president of the Boston Police Patrolman’s Association said the mayor’s directive contradicts the deal, which explicitly asks for volunteers.
"The selection process must be from volunteers.To require non-volunteers to participate in the program would clearly violate the agreement," Rose said. "The BPPA would hope that the City and the Department would honor its written agreement with the BPPA concerning (body cameras)."
Boston police officer Stephen McNulty said that the officer’s refusal to volunteer constitutes a breach of the deal. "Not getting volunteers also violates the agreement," he said.
Some of Boston’s Black community leaders suggest that officers’ unwillingness to wear body cameras is a slight toward communities where police misconduct is a major concern. The police union has been accused of using body cameras as means of gaining leverage in a new service contract, after the current one expired in June.
— Marcus Gutierrez (@notmarcguti) August 17, 2016
Michael Curry, president of the Boston NAACP said, "We are deeply disappointed by the union’s unwillingness to respond to what residents are calling for, with the adoption of this technology," and that, "It has been clear that they are unwilling to evolve and thereby avoid what we are seeing across the country. This issue of body cameras should not be used as a political carrot in their efforts to renegotiate their contract."
Curry said he understands how some may want to volunteer but don’t, out of fear of being ostracized by fellow officers. "But," he states, "as we are fond of saying, courage will not skip this generation. In the police department we need some courageous officers who are not afraid of more transparency and accountability. We believe that history will receive them kindly."
The relationship between Walsh, Evans and the police union has been contentious, especially after the BPPA accused the mayor of not taking police safety seriously when he refused to supply officers with heavier firepower, following recent police shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge.
Walsh does not believe the accusations are influencing the body camera issue, but does think there are Boston officers who are averse to structural reform.
"I think the reluctance is the uncertainty of change," he said, "change across the board."