Metro

Boston police extend body camera pilot program

Boston Police Superintendent in Chief William Gross wears a body camera during a press conference in Sept. 2016.

Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Boston Police Superintendent in Chief William Gross wears a body camera during a press conference in Sept. 2016.

The Boston Police Department will extend its body camera pilot program by an additional six months to collect more data for a study on the use of the devices, the mayor’s office said on Sunday.

The extension, which doubles the length of the program, comes under an agreement with the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, which had previously opposed the effort. The office of Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced the deal in a statement.

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“We are fortunate to have one of the best police forces in the country and our officers work hand in hand with the community to make all neighborhoods safer,” Walsh said. “I thank Commissioner Evans and the BPPA for their continued willingness to work together on this initiative.”

The program put body cameras on 100 patrol officers and eight members of the command staff. It was scheduled to end Sunday, and it could not have been extended without agreement from the patrol officers union, the department’s largest, which had earlier gone to court in an effort to block the pilot program.

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Representatives for the union could not be reached for comment Sunday evening.

The initiative is now scheduled to end Sept. 11.

In January, police Commissioner William B. Evans said he was considering extending the initiative. At that time, police had amassed 13,634 videos totaling 1,905 hours of footage since the program began Sept. 12, he said.

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Evans said then that the program was going “very well” and that he had not heard any complaints from officers, despite earlier opposition to the initiative.

Researchers from Northeastern University are studying the effect of the cameras on police-community relations, use of force, arrests, and other areas, officials previously said.

On Sunday, the city also announced that within the next two weeks it will begin seeking bids for independent experts to conduct an analysis of the available data, compare available body cameras and vendors, and explore best practices in their use.

In most cases, the patrol officers originally outfitted with cameras will continue to participate in the program, according to the statement. If necessary, additional officers will be selected and trained in their use.

The police department first sought volunteers to wear the cameras, but none came forward. The patrol officers union actively discouraged officers from volunteering for the program, according to court filings, and the union later asked a judge to halt the program.

But in Sunday’s announcement, Evans thanked the union for its cooperation in extending the program.

“I am pleased that the pilot program will be continuing through what tends to be our busiest months of the year,” Evans said.

“Extending through the summer will give us the opportunity to keep the body-worn cameras out in the community and will provide additional data to assist with the assessment of the program.”

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.
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