The Boston Globe reports that the head of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association supports putting body cameras on police and wants to file legislation that would legalize them (emphasis added):
As law enforcement officials across the state consider the president’s call for the use of body cameras by police officers, the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association has thrown its support behind the measure, the State Police are considering a pilot program, and municipal departments are working to untangle questions of cost, privacy, and logistics.
“There’s a lot of interest in the use of body cameras,” said A. Wayne Sampson, executive director of the police chiefs’ association. “We believe that if there is ever a question of what actually took place, it could be valuable information for the police departments.” ...
But, Sampson and other law enforcement officials say there are serious issues to be ironed out. Among them: Is it legal for police to record citizens without consent? How would cities and towns pay for the cameras? Would they run constantly, or would officers turn them on and off? Where, and for how long, would the footage be stored? Who could review it? ...
Sampson said the police chiefs’ group intends to file legislation in January that would create a specific allowance for the use of body cameras.
There's just one issue with this proposal: body cameras are already legal. Massachusetts has a law that bans surreptitious audio-recording of others, but the law does not ban openly recording others without their consent.
In the 2001 Supreme Judicial Court case Commonwealth v. Hyde, the court upheld the felony wiretapping conviction of Michael Hyde after he recorded a traffic stop. According to the SJC, Hyde "was not prosecuted for making the recording; he was prosecuted for doing so secretly."
The SJC further stated: "The problem here could have been avoided if, at the outset of the traffic stop, [Hyde] had simply informed the police of his intention to tape record the encounter, or even held the tape recorder in plain sight. Had he done so, his recording would not have been secret, and so would not have violated [the law]."
Police who have arrested people for openly recording them have sometimes paid out thousands in lawsuits. Simon Glik and Maury Paulino, both of whom were wrongfully arrested by Boston police officers for making recordings, got $170,000 and $33,000 settlements respectively.
As long as police keep their body cameras in plaint sight, they won't run afoul of the law. On the other hand, it might still be a good idea to pass a law regulating the police use of body cameras. There are privacy concerns like how long police will be allowed to store the videos and when the videos should be released under the public records law. There's also the issue of when police can turns cameras off and what punishment they will face if they turn them off at inappropriate times. A law could help to iron out these sorts of issues.