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Police union seeks court injunction to halt body camera program

Banner Staff

The Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association last week filed papers in Suffolk Superior Court seeking an injunction to stop the department from ordering police officers to wear body cameras as part of a pilot program scheduled to begin Friday, September 2. BPPA officials took the move after the unilaterally implemented a mandatory program after no officer volunteered for the program.

BPPA officials blasted city officials for “unilaterally” moving ahead with the pilot program after they had negotiated a deal with the union.

“We worked hard with officials of the city and the department to bring the citizens of Boston a body camera pilot program that made sense and protected everyone’s rights,” BPPA President Patrick Rose said in a statement. “The city and the union agreed from day one that the best way to go was to make it a voluntary program. The BPPA can’t stand by and allow the city to blatantly violate the agreement it signed just over a month ago — we had to act and act quickly to prevent this miscarriage of justice.”

An attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts decried the union’s injunction.

“This is a sad day for the city of boston. The police have gone to court to block a body camera pilot program that has been designed to protect the people of Boston by improving police accountability,” said ACLU of Massachusetts legal director, Matthew Segal in a statement. “Their complaint nowhere mentions the risk that civilians, especially those in communities of color, will be harmed if this program is blocked. Worse yet, this lawsuit is part of an alarming pattern. Zero police officers volunteered to wear body cameras. Zero volunteered for the city’s mediation program. Yet the police union has requested long guns and body armor. So this is a police organization that has seen fit to demand instruments of violence and to block instruments of accountability.”

After months of negotiations, the parties signed a Memorandum of Agreement on July 12, 2016. The city agreed to select 100 officers from a pool of volunteers to wear body cameras during the six-month pilot program. When insufficient officers volunteered, the BPPA sent out a call for officers to step forward, but only days later, the BPD announced that it was converting to a mandatory program.

The BPPA immediately filed a grievance and asked the city to agree to an expedited grievance arbitration process to resolve the matter as quickly as possible. The BPPA also invited the city to renegotiate the agreement in light of the unexpected lack of volunteers, but only on the condition that the pilot program was placed on hold during renegotiations. The city refused both offers and has told the BPPA that it still aiming for a start date of Friday.

While the 125 police officers ordered to participate in the program are complying with the order and have already undergone training, the BPPA is asking the Superior Court to enjoin the pilot program until either the arbitration process is completed or the parties negotiate a new agreement.

Segal said the union’s lawsuit goes against the will of the city’s residents, many of whom support the idea of body-worn cameras.

“This pattern raises the question whether real police accountability is even possible in Boston,” he said. “It is for the court to decide whether this lawsuit should prevail under the law of collective bargaining. But it is for the people to decide how long this situation can be tolerated.”