When someone dies in a violent encounter with police, people have come to expect to see the video.
A police body camera captured Daniel Prude’s death after he was physically restrained by police in Albany, New York last year. In Minneapolis, both police and private cameras caught officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck — footage that will likely play a central role in Chauvin’s trial starting this week.
But police in Massachusetts are much less likely to record incidents on cameras. Despite a nationwide push to use body cams to help hold police accountable, only a fraction of departments in the Bay State have deployed the technology.
“It’s bewildering,” said Charu Verma, a defense attorney and co-chair of the Massachusetts Bar Association’s criminal justice council. “We have MIT right here. Why don’t we have body [cameras]?”
A U.S. Department of Justice report five years ago found the vast majority of the 15,000 police departments across the country used either body cams or cruiser dashboard cams. And experts say the number is almost certainly higher now.
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