Not very candid camera talk from police union

If the topic weren’t so serious, the situation would be laughable.

In the wake of rising national concern over police conduct, in particular in dealings in the black community, law enforcement departments across the country are adopting the use of body-worn cameras by officers as part of drive for greater transparency. Adding the small lapel-mounted cameras to officers’ standard gear will bring needed accountability for police behavior, say advocates. But cameras are also seen as helpful back-up that can protect officers when their version of a tense encounter is challenged.

After months of back and forth, the city’s main police union finally agreed in July to allow for a six-month pilot study of body cameras among 100 members of the force who volunteer to take part in exchange for a $500 stipend.

It seemed like the logjam had been broken, but there turned out to be one small hitch in the plan: Not a single officer stepped forward to take part.

At this point in the comical camera saga, Police Commissioner William Evans and Mayor Marty Walsh look like Charlie Brown, and the patrolman’s union, playing the part of Lucy, pulled the football away just as they rushed forward to kick it.

Evans, under pressure from leaders in the black community to get the effort underway, didn’t appear to appreciate the gag.

He said that without any volunteers for the program, he would assign 100 officers to wear cameras. The union, saying it only agreed to a program involving volunteer officers, has gone to court seeking an injunction to block the initiative, saying it never agreed to allow officers to be assigned to wear cameras without their consent. A hearing was scheduled for today, but has now been pushed ahead to next week.

The union’s posture would appear to suggest a certain lack of good faith interest in getting the program going. But John Becker, the lawyer representing the union, says that’s not the case. “The union has been on board with this issue since day one,” he said of the overall camera effort. “There’s only a question of details.”

Those details apparently include the minor matter of whether any officers will actually offer to take part in the pilot study.

“This program is to see if these tools actually work and how effective it is in our communities,” Segun Idowu, of the community group Boston Police Camera Action Team, told WBUR. “If they don’t even want that to happen, I can’t even keep myself from laughing because of how ridiculous this is. It’s really just an embarrassing ploy on the part of the union leadership to do everything they can to stop this program that is supposed to keep everybody safe and create the accountability that their own officers want.”



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