(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Despite police union opposition, training begins Monday for hundreds of Boston Police officers as the department rolls out a new body camera program.
The Boston Police Patrolmen's Association fought against the pilot program to wear body cameras when it was proposed in 2015. Four years later, they still oppose the idea, and are requesting intervention from the Joint Labor Management Council against the program.
BPPA President Mike O'Leary told WBZ NewsRadio the program is "purely politics."
"They're doing this to appease a small group of people who want to see police officers wear body cameras for whatever reason," he said. "They think we're out there doing bad things, and we're not. We're doing our jobs, we're doing the right thing on a daily basis, and these cameras are gonna prove that ... I think it's gonna be a very expensive 'I told you so'."
O'Leary said the police union isn't trying to stop the program from happening—they just want to change the rollout.
"They're not giving them to any detectives or superior officers or command staff members, so it's just police officers that answer radio calls," O'Leary said. "But detectives and sergeants answer radio calls, they're out in the streets, they're interacting with the public too. So, God forbid something happened where they wanted to see body-worn camera footage, it wouldn't happen if it was a detective or a sergeant or a lieutenant or a captain or command staff, because police officers, the patrolmen, are the only ones wearing them."
He also wants officers to be compensated for what he says is an enormous change in the way they'll be doing their jobs.
"It's gonna change our working conditions, the biggest change in our work, the way we do business since I've been on the job, and I've been on the job for 28 years," he said.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the city is sticking with the cameras, because the pilot program showed results.
"It's okay, I mean, it's a change in work conditions," Walsh said. "Not everyone thinks that they're needed. This is something that we've spent a lot of time with, and the pilot program was successful."
During that pilot program, there were about two fewer complaints in use of force reports in the city per month across two control groups.
But as Walsh noted, it's not about the camera or the lenses or the video.
"Ultimately it doesn't really come down to the camera, it comes down to the body that the camera is on, the police officer, that's what we have to focus on," he said. "We have a great police department in Boston."
Walsh said the program will start small and expand over time. Two districts, a total of around 400 officers, will wear the cameras.
"It's not just simply putting a camera on a uniform—it's how do you get the information off that camera, how long do you keep that information for, how does that information deal with a case, what can be seen, what can be public, when can it be public," Walsh said. "There's a lot of work that goes into this ... we're setting up a brand new department, basically."
Walsh said the program should be up and running by late spring, though city officials haven't nailed down an exact date.
The mayor is asking for more money for the program in his budget proposal for the fiscal year starting in July.
WBZ NewsRadio's Chris Fama (@CFamaWBZ) reports