For years, the ACLU of Massachusetts has advocated for the implementation of body-worn cameras for police across the state. Body cameras are an important step towards greater oversight and accountability for police officers. When implemented with appropriate civilian privacy protections, they can build community trust and improve safety on both sides of the badge.
Body-worn cameras also prove invaluable in courts. The Boston Globe's Milton Valencia reported on how footage from the Boston Police Department's body camera pilot program has impacted several cases.
As city officials await a final assessment of the yearlong body camera pilot program in Boston, civil rights advocates point to three court cases that were overturned based on body camera footage as evidence of the program’s success. And even many police officers, some initially hesitant to participate in the body camera pilot, say they now see the value in recording interactions with civilians, particularly after an internal affairs investigation was dismissed due to body camera footage that justified the officer’s actions.
Lawyers with the ACLU say that new technology such as body camera footage or dash cameras could prove vital in resolving disputed court cases. The lawyers said they have also seen video footage that seemed to support police actions, even while a defendant was objecting to an officer’s actions in the video.
“For 100 years, courts have faced a ‘he said, she said’ dilemma, as police officers describe one set of events, and defendants another. Now we have a more neutral witness,” said Kade Crockford, director of the ACLU’s Technology for Liberty Program. “These videos and court orders show us body cameras can play a critical role in criminal cases, to help judges determine what really happened.”
The ACLU recently urged court officials in a letter to “start reviewing police testimony that doesn’t come with body camera footage [from the pilot program] with more skepticism,” Crockford said.
In the three cases, a judge repeatedly found that body camera footage told a different story than the police officers. Those cases are Commonwealth v. Dyette, Commonwealth v. Daviega, and Commonwealth v. Rivera et al.. In Rivera, the judge noted that the body camera footage "was indispensable in understanding the events as they unfolded."
Learn more about our advocacy for body-worn cameras in Massachusetts.