Shekia Scott and Segun Idowu organized the Boston Police Camera Action Team (BPCAT) on August 13, 2014, four days after the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
The community group was formed as an alternative outlet to address frustrations with systemic issues affecting communities of color. Tired of responding to outrageous situations experienced in Sanford, New York City, Ferguson, and Cleveland in similar ways, organizers and team members decided to focus their indignation on constructive solutions to prevent Boston from being added to that list.
The group is committed to not only equipping all of Boston’s police with body cameras, but also moving the Boston Police Department in the direction of adopting its draft of the rules and procedures that officers would follow once they are outfitted with these body cameras.
BPCAT held its first meeting in the offices of the ACLU of Massachusetts with ten other committed Boston residents. Since then, membership has quadrupled and the group has worked to ensure the concerns of the entire Boston community were heard and addressed. The action team interviewed hundreds of Boston residents to ensure that it was following the will of the people and advocating a stance that they supported. On top of researching several city-wide policies and recommendations from the Department of Justice, the group also worked with partners like the Harvard Black Law Student Association (HBLSA), the Boston Branch of the NAACP, Digital Fourth, the ACLU of MA, and others to produce a policy template for the Boston Police Department to consider and adopt.
Because of the work of BPCAT and its partner organizations to bring this matter to public prominence - as well as the support of elected officials like former City Councilor Charles Yancey and current City Councilors Tito Jackson, Ayanna Pressley, and Michelle Wu - Mayor Martin Walsh and Boston Police Commissioner William Evans reversed their initial opposition to the transparency device. In 2016, Mayor Walsh set aside $500,000 for a body camera pilot program. Boston began this pilot program in September 2016 despite court resistance from the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association (BPPA), the largest police union in the city.
Members of BPCAT monitored the pilot program, which was extended until September 2017. Following the release of a preliminary report on the yearlong program in January 2018, BPCAT and its allies renewed calls for full implementation and a discussion around body camera policy.
After a body camera hearing on March 12, 2018 sponsored by the office of Council President Andrea Campbell, Mayor Walsh announced via a spokesperson to the Boston Globe that he would allocate an unspecified amount of money in his proposed 2019 budget for a full body camera program. With this victory achieved through persistent grassroots' effort, BPCAT and its allies will continue to push for further conversation around the adoption of its model policy, as well as public input on the shape of the full program.