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I-Team: Boston Police Body Cameras Video Is Blurred - On Purpose

BOSTON (CBS) - Boston Police body camera video might not be exactly what the public expected. WBZ-TV's I-Team was the first to get ahold of footage from the first moments officers strapped the cameras to their uniforms when the new program officially started June 3. The video is limited and blurred.

An officer is seen approaching a man pulled over on Melnea Cass Boulevard. "This is on camera' we've just got to tell you. We just started these things today," he said. South Boston and Dorchester are the only two districts where police have started wearing the cameras.

"You put it on, right?" Another officer's finger is seen pointing to the lens.

"I'm on, yea," said another officer. "First time I put it on."

Through a Massachusetts public records request, WBZ's I-Team got a glimpse of what the public will see any time police video is released. In an unusual move, police blurred the video, they said to protect privacy.

boston police body camera video
Boston Police say they blur the body camera video to protect privacy. (Image credit: Boston Police - WBZ-TV graphic)

Of seven incidents requested, after about a month, police gave WBZ footage from just two incidents. Police explained officers working details don't wear body cameras and neither do officers working overtime hours.

"I think if you requested seven incidents, you should have received seven videos," said Segun Idowu, whose group Boston Police Camera Action Team helped spearhead the effort to bring the cameras to Boston. Idowu watched the footage WBZ obtained. It was the first time he's seen Boston Police body camera video since the program officially started.

"If you are engaging with civilians on our dime, then you should be wearing a body camera," he said.

Boston Police Commissioner William Gross said there are some exceptions. "If someone you knew was, unfortunately, a victim, would you want someone to have a camera on during the interview process? Of course not." That's why, he said, we'll never see video from investigating detectives. They don't have body cameras.

WBZ requested video from a bank robbery at 1 p.m. in South Boston the first day body cameras were assigned. Police say the first responding officer forgot to turn it on.

"Of course, there's a learning curve because this equipment is new to several people," said Commissioner Gross. "We're human, too. We're not robotic, so if there are some problems, they can easily be adjusted, and if they're not adjusted, then we send the officers back to be retrained."

boston police body camera
Body camera worn by Boston Police officers. (WBZ-TV)

Idowu says that's disappointing since Boston Police assured his group that officers had been trained. "For us, it's going to be very important that officers are adequately prepared to wear these cameras and to use them in the community," he said. "We want to avoid the negative incidents that could occur if something goes down."

Commissioner Gross said he hopes to get the rest of the officers on the Boston Police force equipped with body cameras by next summer.

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