Update: Boston’s City Council has postponed Wednesday’s hearing on equipping Boston police officers with body cameras, citing a shooting outside a Dorchester high school that killed one person and injured several others. It was not immediately clear whether it would be rescheduled.
Due to a police emergency in Dorchester, today’s Public Safety Committee hearing on police body cameras scheduled for 3PM has been cancelled
— Boston City Council (@BOSCityCouncil) June 8, 2016
City officials Wednesday were set to hold a hearing on plans to equip 100 Boston police officers with body cameras to record their interactions with communitymembers.
Ahearing of the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety Criminal Justice, called for by CouncilorTitoJackson,was scheduled to start Wednesday at 3 p.m.
The roll-out of the city’s first body camera program has not been a smooth one, with the primary activist group calling for the technology crying foul over the way the public has been involved in planning for it.
Now, that group has announced, it’s sitting out Wednesday’s hearing in protest, accusing officials in a written statement of”meeting important conversations with hollow actions.”
TheBoston Police Camera Action Teamannounced its opposition to the hearing in an email Wednesday morning.
Its members argue that a series of community discussions on thecameras has come without any concrete policies for residents to critique, and that Boston’s police commissioner and officials from the BPD’s uniondidn’t attend a series of neighborhood meetings this year. Police officers, though, did attend those meetings.
BPCAT said it “applaud[s]” the effort from Councilor Andrea Campbell, who organized the neighborhood discussions.
When it comes to Wednesday’s hearing, BPCAT’s leaders say the timing of it means too few people will be able to get there and voice their opinions.
“Now, a hearing will be held that the Commissioner and union officialscanattend, but which the communitycannot, being held on an early weekday afternoon that will find many community members working hard to support the needs of their children and families,” reads the statement signed by BPCAT co-organizers Segun Idowu and Shekia Scott. “As a result, BPCAT cannot support the city council hearing and will thus not be in attendance.”
The committee allows citizens to send in their comments before a meeting if they can’t attend, by email (CCC.PS@Boston.gov), snail mail or fax.
Previously, BPCAT has criticized the fact that wearing the cameras will be voluntary —the BPD contract dictates that officers can’t be forced to wear one if they don’t want to. And the group is also skeptical about how the city will run its fledgling camera program, given that Boston Police Commissioner William Evans has said publicly hedoesn’t think his officers need them.
The discussion about police body cameras comes against the backdrop of a BPD investigation intothe actions of an off-duty cop, who in a video filmed by a bystander is seen pinning a pedestrian to the ground, then walking the man back to his car while gripping his shirt’s collar. The pedestrian, a 54-year-old man, allegedly struck the officer’s car with an umbrella. As he was not in uniform, it’s unlikely the officer,Edward P. Barrett, would have been wearing a body camera. But for activists the incident has been framed as an example of a case when the equipment would be helpful in figuring out exactly what happened.
“This shows why Boston police need to join their colleagues in most other large cities in using body worn cameras,so neither members of the public nor the BPD would have torely onbystander videos to understand situations like this, and to protect people on both sides of the badge,” the ACLU wrote in a statement about the investigation last month.
The ACLU is noticeably not sitting out the meeting today. It organizeda Facebook eventrallying supporters to show up and voice their opinions.
“If Boston’s body camera program is not done right — with strong policies that protect people’s privacy and ensure police accountability — then we should not implement it,” the event description reads.”That’s why it’s important for residents of Boston to speak out at the hearing.”