Police body-worn cameras: Let’s do it right

Photo: Rahsaan Hall, director of the ACLU of Massachusetts Racial Justice Program (left), joins residents at a Roslindale community forum on the Boston Police Department’s body-worn camera pilot program on April 26, 2016. Photo by Ananda Zhu

The ACLU of Massachusetts believes that body-worn cameras—along with police-civilian receipts, better training, and better data—can be an important step towards greater oversight and accountability of police officers.

We urge cities and towns across Massachusetts to adopt body-worn camera programs that follow three core principles: accountability, privacy, and transparency. Body cameras are not a panacea. But, if combined with good policies, they can build community trust and improve safety on both sides of the badge.

That’s why it’s not enough for Massachusetts cities and towns to join their peers in other parts of the country that have implemented body cameras—we also need to do it right. To that end, the ACLU has offered our model policy, backed by civil rights groups and community groups. In fact, on June 28, 2016, we sent our suggested model policy to 40 police departments across the state. We selected communities where body-worn cameras might offer a benefit given the concentrations of three potentially vulnerable populations: people of color, non-English speakers, or people living below the poverty threshold.

You can learn more here about why the ACLU supports body cameras done right:

Body cameras throughout Massachusetts

Click for full-size versions of comics

Graphic illustrating that a good police body camera program takes into account participation from community members, privacy protections and public accountability

By Hallie Pope

By Hallie Pope

By Hallie Pope

Read our model policy

ACLU of Massachusetts Model Body-Worn Camera Policy (June 23, 2016)

Read our position paper

Police Body-Worn Cameras: How to Do It Right in Massachusetts (June 2016)

Read our briefing paper

The Legality of Police Body-Worn Cameras in Massachusetts (June 2016)

Read FAQs about body cameras

Frequently Asked Questions about Body-Worn Cameras in Massachusetts (June 2016)

Learn the facts

  • Currently, 66 of the 100 biggest police departments in the U.S. have either implemented or are planning to implement police body-worn cameras.
  • Boston has been an outlier among the 25 largest U.S. cities in its failure to implement body-worn cameras.
  • The ACLU’s proposed body-worn camera policies include privacy protections for civilians and disciplinary actions for officers who do not follow protocols.
  • The Obama Administration has pledged $75 million to help police departments use body-worn cameras.

Learn more by reading our position paper and listening to the Civil Liberties Minute podcast Are the cops near you wearing body cameras?.

Who supports police body-worn cameras?

ACLU staff and community allies testified in support of Boston City Councillor Charles Yancey's ordinance requiring police to use body-worn cameras at a hearing on August 5, 2015.

ACLU staff and community allies testified in support of Boston City Councillor Charles Yancey’s ordinance requiring police to use body-worn cameras at a hearing on August 5, 2015.

Read media coverage

Opinions and Editorials

Boston Globe: Public’s right to know is central to police video debate
ACLU of Massachusetts Legal Director Matthew Segal in Boston Herald: Police body-cameras can protect public and cops
ACLU of Massachusetts fellow Nashwa Gewaily in American Constitution Society: The Case for Officer Body Cameras and Sensible Legislation Surrounding Them
ACLU of Massachusetts fellow Nashwa Gewaily in Boston Herald: Body cams key for modern policing
ACLU of Massachusetts blog PrivacySOS: Americans overwhelmingly support body cams for cops, but Mass governor warns about privacy risks
National ACLU: Police Body-Mounted Cameras: With Right Policies in Place, a Win For All

News stories

WBUR: Volunteers Lacking For Boston Police Body Camera Program
Boston Globe: Make police body cams happen in Boston
Boston Globe: Support continues for police body cameras
WCVB: Boston, big cities move forward with police body camera testing
Boston Globe: Body cameras are coming – and the Boston Police Dept. needs to accept it
Metro: Boston police rolling out body cameras amid blurry policy picture
WBUR: Local Civil Rights Groups Release Proposed Policy On Police Body Cameras
ACLU of Massachusetts media release: Civil rights groups applaud Boston Police Department decision on body cameras and announce release of model policy
Boston Herald: Charlie Baker hints he would back state funds for cop body cams
Boston Herald: Massachusetts Senate president backs body camera grants
MassLive: Police body cameras in Massachusetts: A simple idea that’s hard to enact
Boston Globe: Boston City Council to consider body cameras for police
The Daily Beast: Who’s Against Videotaping Police?
Reveal News: Eyes on cops
The Atlantic: Civil rights rules for body cameras
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press: MAP: Access to Police Body-Worn Camera Video

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