The Current Status of Body Cameras in Massachusetts
As of July 2019, 9 law enforcement agencies in Massachusetts were using body-worn cameras, either through their own commitment or through a pilot program.
Unresolved Legal Issues with Body Cameras in Massachusetts
The Massachusetts legislature has not specifically addressed how body-worn cameras or the content they record interact with our statutes on two-party consent (generally required for recording someone) or public records (who should have access to the content- and to what content?).
Because the state has not taken action (outside of creating pilot programs) with respect to body-worn cameras, municipalities and law enforcement agencies have designed their own policies. The ACLU of Massachusetts in 2016 offered up a model policy for municipalities. At that time, the ACLU indicated that “body-worn camera programs. . . [should] 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.”
Legislation Designed to Address Body Cameras in Massachusetts
This session, Representative Denise Provost filed a bill to establish a task force to develop a uniform code for police-worn body cameras and their recording. It accompanied a House study order on February 5, 2020.
We welcome your thoughts on to what extent requiring law enforcement officers to wear body cameras while on duty is worthwhile.
Anne Johnson Landry
Chief Counsel, Office of Senator Brownsberger