No Body Cameras for Boston Police, Says Commissioner

Boston Police Commissioner William Evans
Boston Police Commissioner William Evans –The Boston Globe

Boston Police Commissioner William Evans has doubts about the use of police body cameras . He explained his hesitation to bring the devices to Boston during a Sunday interview with WBZ political analyst Jon Keller.

“No one’s going to want to approach us and say, ‘Hey, they’re dealing drugs over there,’ or, ‘Hey, I got a tip on that shooting,’ because they’re afraid they will be on camera,’’ Evans said.

According to Evans, Boston police have established a real bond with the community, “especially the minority community,’’ and police body cameras could prevent people from approaching police.

Evans said he has discussed the possibility of introducing police body cameras with Mayor Marty Walsh, but said they both have qualms. Evans said that there are some positives to cameras, such as officers being more cautious in their use of force, but he fears the cameras will lead to less “trust and respect’’ toward officers. Evans also said he had privacy concerns.

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Walsh expressed his reluctance to implement cameras after a White House meeting this week, saying they “aren’t going to help with the fundamental problems between community and police.’’

“There are a lot of unanswered questions,’’ Evans said. “When should we have them on, when should we have them off.’’

Evans also said police body cameras distract officers from the real issues at hand.

“Technology is great, but unless you get into the underlying culture that creates the distrust, than cameras are only a window fix,’’ Evans said.

Nationwide protests erupted this week after a grand jury decided not to indict a New York police officer in the death of Eric Gardner. Gardner, a 350-pound black man, died shortly after a police officer appeared to put him in a chokehold.

The Justice Department will conduct a federal investigation, Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday, December 3.

Gardner’s death was caught on video by a bystander. The incident has caused many police departments to review police tactics, especially officers’ treatment toward minorities.

President Barack Obama recently requested $75 million in federal funds to provide 50,000 body cameras for police departments across the country. The use of such cameras has been implemented in some cities — Rialto, California, for example.

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Criminologist Barak Ariel’s research found that police officers without cameras were twice as likely to use force as those who wore them, according to an Atlantic article. Regardless of the cameras, Evans said Boston police officers’ main first priority is saving lives.

“I know the protests are all about black lives matter,’’ Evans said, “let me tell you, every life matters to the Boston Police Department.’’

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