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Police camera program delayed by lawsuit

A lawsuit filed last week by Boston’s largest police union alleges the city violated its collective bargaining agreements when officials assigned 100 officers to wear the devices after none volunteered. GEORGE FREY/GETTY IMAGES

A request by Boston’s largest police union to halt the start of a body camera pilot program is set to be considered next Tuesday and Wednesday by a Suffolk Superior Court judge, causing a delay in the program’s launch.

“Although the commissioner was ready and wanted to start the program this week, the parties have agreed to hold off until September 12 for a start date,” police department spokesman Lieutenant Detective Michael McCarthy said in a statement.

The lawsuit filed last week by the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association alleges the city violated collective bargaining agreements when officials assigned 100 officers to wear the devices after none volunteered.


John Becker, an attorney with the Sandulli Grace law firm, who is representing the patrolmen’s association, said Wednesday that both parties met with a judge on Tuesday, and the city requested to delay the start of the pilot program.

Bonnie McGilpin, a spokeswoman for Mayor Martin J. Walsh, said rescheduling the hearing to next week “gives the city the opportunity to make a full presentation of the issue.”

The launch of the six-month pilot program had been delayed for months by union negotiations. In July, the city and the patrolmen’s association reached a deal for a volunteer program. A month later, no officers had agreed to participate. According to the lawsuit, Patrick Rose, president of the patrolmen’s association, then sent a letter to union members stating that “officers interested in volunteering should do so.”

Becker said the union only wants to temporarily stop the program so that city officials and union leaders can come up with a new agreement.

“Our position is the city violated that agreement when they ordered officers to wear the cameras,” Becker said.

Unlike some cities where officers have come under fire following police-involved shootings of black men, the union asserts Boston has not had such incidents. While there have been police-involved shootings of armed suspects, the officers were cleared of wrongdoing.


“There is no evidence that the delay resulting from allowing these processes to run their course will cause any lasting harm to any portion of the community served by the BPD and the patrol officers who make up the union,” the lawsuit states.

The city has requested an evidentiary hearing, in which witnesses would testify.

Judge Douglas H. Wilkins has asked both sides to submit arguments on whether to hold an evidentiary hearing.

“We don’t think this justifies an evidentiary hearing because we’re only asking for a temporary delay in the program,” Becker said. “The union has been on board with this issue since day one. There’s only a question of details. . . . What’s it going to look like? Not whether we’re going to have [cameras] or not.”

Jan Ransom can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @Jan_Ransom.