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Boston police union contracts expire today. What’s next?

Boston Police officers applauded at their 2018 graduation ceremony.
Boston Police officers applauded at their 2018 graduation ceremony.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff/file

The contracts for Boston’s four main police unions officially expire Tuesday, and the next agreements they hash out with the city are expected to be closely scrutinized amid nationwide protests demanding an overhaul of law enforcement practices.

Activists and some public officials say they want to see reform of certain aspects including disciplinary procedures, oversight, and the amount of tax dollars spent on police overtime pay and other compensation.

Such changes in Boston are likely to require sign-off from the city’s powerful police unions through the negotiation process, experts say.

Negotiations are already underway. The opposing sides have been mum about the proposals currently on the table, with officials in Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s office calling the talks “confidential.”

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The administration has signaled at least one issue it remains is discussions with union officials about is the use of body cameras on overtime shifts. Those discussions are outside of normal contract negotiations.

Currently, Boston officers do not have to wear cameras while working overtime. That can mean no video when police are called in to respond to protests, work gang unit sweeps, and face other potentially volatile situations with the public.

That gaping loophole in the department’s policy came after the city and union officials, during closed-door negotiations, resolved a dispute over the equipment’s implementation, which the patrolmen’s union had fought against and sued over in 2016.

Today, according to a Walsh official, there is still no written agreement with the union stipulating the terms of a deal because the union continues to fight the body camera policy.

While other cities, including New York and Baltimore, require police to always wear body cameras, including on overtime shifts, the Walsh administration has blamed the limitation on the camera’s battery life, which the manufacturer says should last 12 hours.

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Last week, Walsh also told WGBH that another issue on the table is the process for disciplining officers. He said some changes to that procedure, however, may need to come outside of the bargaining process.

“We will need, in some cases, legislative action to fix some of this,” he told the public radio station. “Unfortunately, the process is flawed. Right now the process is out of my control, it’s out of everyone’s control. The union, they’re going to advocate on behalf of their members, in some cases they have an obligation to do that because they have to.”

City Councilor Andrea Campbell, who along with colleagues has been pushing a number of changes within the Police Department, has urged Walsh to be more transparent about the negotiations.

Andrew Ryan of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


Matt Rocheleau can be reached at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mrochele