Last week, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh funded the Boston Police Department’s body camera program. Last month, Boston Police Commissioner William Evans told the City Council subcommittee, “I think the mayor realizes the positive benefits to this, I know I do.”
A pilot program was conducted through 2016 to 2017. According to a preliminary report, officers who were wearing body cams were less likely to have a complaint filed against them. In the pilot program, 100 officers wore body cameras for a year. The researchers, from Northeastern University, analyzed complaints filed against Boston police officers and their reports of use of force and compared it to a similar group of officers who did not wear cameras.
Now, Macho Marty will devote $2 million in funding in Boston's 2019 budget.
Let’s be clear: Police wearing body cameras is a political statement. This is a feel good move by local politicians, such as City Council President Andrea Campbell, who lobbied ferociously for Boston officers to wear body cameras. City Councilors believe this will help “community relations.” However, the study conducted by Northeastern University didn’t find results whether police wearing body cameras actually did help improve community relations.
This is another example of liberal political elites imposing their ideology upon citizens—in this case, police officers—regardless of its effectiveness. In fact, Walsh, Evans and Campbell haven’t asked the one most important group whether body cams are actually necessary: the cops. Instead, they are more interested in appeasing militant cop-haters, such as Black Lives Matter.
“I honestly don’t think the mayor nor the police commissioner see a need,” said a police officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of professional retaliation. “However, in a world of Black Lives Matter and false narratives of actions of police, the mayor has a heavy load on his shoulders.”
Think about it: All of this stems back to when former President Obama blasted the Cambridge police for acting “stupidly” when they arrested his friend and Harvard Professor, Henry Louis Gates. Since then, politicians added fuel to the fire and caused hysteria that lead to the breakdown of trust between police and citizens of their towns or cities.
Campbell sent out a statement approving Walsh’s action, “This budget reflects a strong commitment to improving public safety in our neighborhoods, and equipping our law enforcement with the tools and technology they need to successfully keep our neighborhoods safe.”
Really? Which begs the question: Can’t this money be used for something else to further public safety? Try investing in new cruisers, new laptops in cruisers, K9 training, funding for more K9’s, better bullet proof vests, new radios, or updating older police stations. If you want to pump an extra $2 million in policing then why not commit the money that will benefit policing by acquiring better equipment and resources?
Moreover, Macho Marty and Evans might see the benefits of body cameras, but most officers and some experts don’t. What I found striking is that, after interviewing law enforcement officers, how many of them staunchly oppose the use of body cameras.
“Who the Hell wants to be videotaped all the time? Police officers have discretion to make a judgement call depending on the circumstances,” said one police officer, who only agreed to speak anonymously.
Furthermore, there is no evidence that body cameras act as a deterrent against police brutality. According to the New York Times, a study, this one in Washington D.C., found that over 18 months officers who were wearing body cameras used force and had civilian complaints were about the same rate as those officers who weren’t wearing cameras.
Seth Stoughton, a former police officer and a law enforcement professor at the University of South Carolina, told the Times, “Police departments have been rushing to body cameras without sufficiently deciding what the goal is.”
He added: “When no one is sure what it is supposed to do, no one knows if it is working.”
Another Boston police officer told me, “The facts of law enforcement’s use of force is skewed, because the media likes to show juicy stuff like shootings, and cops behaving badly. They’ll never showcase the positive. The whole camera thing is driven by sensationalism and biased data.”
Another Boston law enforcement officer said that, for all its flaws, Boston’s police culture is very different than other cities in the country, pointing out that cop shootings of young black males are much more rare here than say, in the South.
“My initial reaction to wearing a body camera was negative because I see through the disguise of what they are said to be used for,” he said. “The program is sold as officer safety and accountability. I haven’t seen the exact numbers from the pilot program but I don’t believe there were any instances of police misconduct.”
He added: “I think it’s more than clear that this [Boston] is a respectable police department from the top down. There is no major issue at hand that needs to be accounted for with video every second. Boston isn’t Ferguson. We don’t have a systemic problem of bad police culture.”
He’s right. It’s time to realize that police aren’t the problem; the criminals are. Boston’s crime rate is high. And body cameras will not stop the soaring murders in Boston. There were 151 shooting victims in Boston last summer, 22 were fatal. Remember: Bad guys don’t care if they are on camera.
- Brittany Jennings is the Executive Producer of The Kuhner Report on WRKO AM 680. Follow her on Twitter @Brittany_J10.