BOSTON (CBS) – From Florida to Idaho, police departments across the country are now using body cameras strapped directly to an officer’s shoulder or chest.
Massachusetts has long lagged behind the rest of the country in the use of police cameras. But the I-Team has learned that could be changing, at least for some area departments.READ MORE: Record Fall Warmth: An Unprecedented Autumn In New England
According to a recent survey, as many as 50 Massachusetts police departments are now considering outfitting their officers with cameras.
Worcester will be the first. If all goes well with a new pilot program, they plan to have body cameras on their officers by early 2015.
“It’s the technology and if it can assist us in better policing our community, we think it’s worth taking a look at,” said Worcester Police Chief Gary Gemme.
For other departments, putting cameras on cops could be an uphill battle in the Bay State.
First. There are legal concerns. Massachusetts has some of the toughest privacy laws in the country with strict rules against wiretapping and recording audio.
A second concern is how to store the video once it’s been shot. Police departments say dealing with that could be costly.
WBZ Security Analyst Ed Davis told the I-Team he tried for years to put cameras on Boston officers when he was commissioner. He had little success.
“I think it’s largely due to the fact that Massachusetts has very strong police union. And because of their hesitance in embracing the concept it’s been difficult to implement them here,” Davis said.READ MORE: As Pediatricians Get Ready To Give COVID Vaccine To Children, Some Doctors Say Review The Data
But attitudes could be changing. The calls for cameras have reached a fever pitch in the wake of the violence in Ferguson, Missouri. The ACLU and a grassroots group of young Bostonians are now demanding that Boston Police strap on body cameras as a way to police their actions with the community.
“To us, this is one of the first steps to create accountability and safety for the police officer and the citizen,” said Segun Idowu who founded the Boston Police Camera Action Team.
“Is it something that’s necessary for Boston Police?” I-Team Reporter Lauren Leamanczyk asked Commissioner William Evans.
“Are we going to go to them? I’d like us to go. Do we have a major problem? No,” he replied.
Evans is watching what happens in Worcester. He likes cameras – but admits it probably won’t happen soon.
“When you do community policing as well as we do, it can get in the way of that trust and mutual respect that we have,” Evans said.
State Police Colonel Tim Alben doesn’t see his department jumping on the body cam bandwagon either.
“I think it goes back to the competing few dollars that are available out there for equipment and training for police officers and where you’re going to spend that,” Alben said.
Local Departments could find one compelling reason to make the investment. A national police group who has studied the issue found that when officers wear body cameras, complaints against them drop significantly.
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