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Brookline Police Department starts rolling out body cameras for officers

The Brookline Public Safety Building. Photo by Zoe Zekos
April 17, 2024  Updated April 19, 2024 at 6:58 p.m.

Brookline police are set to start wearing body cameras for the first time in the coming weeks.

The department, which has purchased 140 Motorola cameras, will test the cameras with 10-15 officers before expanding their use to the rest of the force.

“The use of body cameras is best practice in policing nationwide. I believe in transparency and accountability,” Chief of Police Jennifer Paster said in an interview. “We work for the people of Brookline, so they have a right to know what’s going on. And I also believe in the work that our officers are doing, and I look at [the cameras] as a way to exonerate officers if unnecessary complaints come in.”

BPD has not named a specific start date, but Paster told Brookline.News the testing would start shortly after the Boston Marathon, which was on Monday.

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Officers will be required to turn on the Motorola V700 cameras when they’re dealing with members of the public, according to deputy superintendent Paul Campbell, who has been leading work to develop policies around the use of the cameras.

As is common with police body cameras, they will always be recording, with a 30-second buffer. When officers press a button to mark the start of an interaction, the camera will save the previous 30 seconds (with no audio) and then continue saving the rest of the recording with audio until the officer presses a button again to mark the end of an interaction.

Campbell said that officers can use some discretion. For example, if an officer is approached by someone asking for directions, they won’t be expected to turn the camera on, he said.

The manufacturer Motorola will help provide training for the department, Campbell said.

The Motorola V700 body cameras which will soon be carried by Brookline police officers. Photo courtesy of Motorola Solutions

“Some of it is going to be just learning as you go,” he said. “But I do expect it will come relatively quickly. The cameras seem relatively straightforward. It’s one button on, one button off. So hopefully it will be relatively smooth.”

The department is still finalizing its policy for the public release of video from the cameras, but Campbell said that the footage they produce will be public record, handled much like other public records requests that the department receives.

Donelle O’Neal, a Town Meeting member who has been pushing for the department to use body cameras for the last several years, said that he’s happy to see the plan being put in place. He led the passage of a resolution last year urging the department to implement body cameras.

“I think it will make the department more accountable, and be a comfort for everyone involved. When a police officer comes up to someone and there’s an issue, and the person’s uncomfortable, the officers can say, ‘I have a body camera, this is being recorded,’ to ease everybody’s mind.”

O’Neal also said that using body cameras will keep Brookline up to date with other cities and towns in the area.

Brookline’s neighboring municipalities Newton and Boston have body cameras in place. In Cambridge, following outrage over the 2023 police shooting of 20-year-old Sayed Faisal, police plan to start using body cameras in the next year, according to the Harvard Crimson.

Michael Keaveney, president of the Brookline Police Union, said that the union has not been opposed to implementing body cameras, but did work to make sure that officers will be “ compensated properly for the change in working conditions” that the cameras bring.

The 140 cameras, mounting clips and holster sensors, along with software and other IT equipment, are all part of a five-year contract with Motorola, for a total price tag of $754,448, according to Campbell. A state grant for $250,000 is covering some of that cost.