NYPD Ordered To Use Body Cameras

An interesting piece of news today (for a lot of reasons): A judge declared New York's stop and frisk program unconstitutional. Part of the ruling says the NYPD has to do a pilot program where five precincts fit officers with body cameras to record their interactions with the public.

We reported back in May on a study based at a department in California that found that body cameras decreased complaints against officers by 88 percent. Use of force incidents dropped 66 percent. The chief of police from the study said there was a little pushback at first, but people adjusted. Now, that was at a police department of about 150. It'll be interesting to see a similar experiment goes at the NYPD and how the results compare to this study.

Exact wording from the judge in the ruling (case documents here):

Because body-worn cameras are uniquely suited to addressing the constitutional harms at issue in this case, I am ordering the NYPD to institute a pilot project in which bodyworn cameras will be worn for a one-year period by officers on patrol in one precinct per borough — specifically the precinct with the highest number of stops during 2012. The Monitor will establish procedures for the review of stop recordings by supervisors and, as appropriate, more senior managers. The Monitor will also establish procedures for the preservation of stop recordings for use in verifying complaints in a manner that protects the privacy of those stopped.

Finally, the Monitor will establish procedures for measuring the effectiveness of body-worn cameras in reducing unconstitutional stops and frisks. At the end of the year, the Monitor will work with the parties to determine whether the benefits of the cameras outweigh their financial, administrative, and other costs, and whether the program should be terminated or expanded. The City will be responsible for the costs of the pilot project.

The judge actually wrote four pages about how cameras could have impacted stop and frisk starting on page 223 of the document. She even cites the California study.

I am fascinated to see how NYPD is going to object to this because I imagine they will. The combination of unions, the NY "f you" attitude and the obvious chilling effect this will have on police 'creative' actions will surely motivate protests.

I am 100% for this. Police abuse of power is far too commonplace. Can't wait to hear the Police union's objection to this.

This is the department that is still, as of last year, using typewriters. This is the city that blew $21.3 million dollars on a subway surveillance project that doesn't work and never will. Expect the body camera project to flounder and implode in a big cloud of money and recriminations.

I've been trying to get in touch with the police union, but the New York Post has a source in there already who says the NYPD has no plans to outfit officers with the cameras and that a possible defense will be that police "can’t be forced to wear the extra equipment without it being first negotiated as part of their union contract."

Other highlights:

  • The police and the city are planning to file an injunction to keep from having to wear the cameras.
  • The union says the cameras will be extra weight on top of what officers already have to carry

That didn't take long did it? I've never seen a police department fight as hard against transparency as the NYPD.

I wonder what Frank Serpico thinks of this project?

Here's what surprises me in that article - the public's opposition:

But in East New York, Brooklyn, where the cops would be outfitted with the cameras, residents gave a thumbs-down to the equipment.

“I wouldn’t talk to a cop with a camera. They could do anything with that video. They could edit it,’’ said Michael Coles, 27. “It’s infringing on my privacy.”

Eric Wilson, 21, added, “If I see a cop with a video, I’m not talking to him, nope, not at all. It would be detrimental to us around here . . . They might think I’m an informer.”

Now, granted this is the NY Post, so maybe this is slanted against cameras and using these two people who are unrepresentative of local opinion. However, with the paranoia of people from Brooklyn, I actually can imagine this is a legitimate sentiment.

Well, I'm a people from Brooklyn, and, yes, we are paranoid. But this brings up a good point- the video should be sealed and accessible only by court order.

the entire issue is to make it so they can not just stop you for no reason ther has to be cause to violate our rights. the judge is just making them follow the constitution. and the f u attitude just bit them in the rear.

the cop not wearing the camera is the one im worried about... they can do anything and when its them verses me in court the judge 98% of the time sides with them. if video shows they acted wrong then i may just win that case.

i get the personal privacy but with all the cities puting up 1000+ camreas all over it is silly to think you have privacy outside your home in the first place. home and car are the only places you can almost be out of the eye of some camera. and it will only increase as time goes on!!!!! just deal with it. good for the judge. and i get that you have issues but you have a camera on you when your outside anyway.... and in New York Foget about it!!!!!!!!!

These 2 incidents are a great example of what the NYPD would like to avoid:

ahhhhhahahahahaha and they want you to help them no wonder!!! thanks john... great clip.......

I'm afraid we have to think about, live with, and behave understanding the reality that we can't reasonably expect any sort of privacy in these interactions.

I really thought that the investigators in the Casey Anthony case did law enforcement a real disservice when they released police interrogation videos to the news media. Wouldn't that circus make anyone interacting with authorities much more reticent?

I got a hold of someone from the police union this morning, and he said they're pretty pissed about it but wouldn't be commenting individually and just to use the official statement they released yesterday. It basically says New York has enough cameras already and adding cameras to all the heavy stuff they have to carry and would cause a safety issue. Full statement here and copied below:

“It is common knowledge that New York City is already saturated with video cameras. Manhattan has its ring of steel. The outer boroughs have traffic cameras and countless private and public security cameras located everywhere so there is simply no need to equip patrol officers with body cams. Our members are already weighed down with equipment like escape hoods, mace, flashlights, memo books, asps, radio, handcuffs and the like. Additional equipment becomes an encumbrance and a safety issue for those carrying it. Given that the root cause of this stop and frisk problem is a significant shortage of police officers in local precincts, it seems to us that the monies spent on a bodycam pilot program would be better spent on hiring more police officers and providing them with extensive field training with an experienced officer.”

Given that the root cause of this stop and frisk problem is a significant shortage of police officers in local precincts...

If you have the manpower to stop and frisk the enormous amount of people you've been stop-and-frisking, especially given that 80% of these incidents (!) turn out to be unfounded, then "not enough manpower" is not one of your problems. You may, in fact, have too much manpower if you have enough people to carry this program out.

I'm not going to touch the ridiculous "we already have enough cameras" claim, other than to point out that it really grinds my gears when someone uses "countless" to mean "large number that I'm too lazy to count accurately but let us stipulate for the sake of argument that it's a lot".

As for the weight claim, here's the specs for the Taser Axxon:

I know there are a lot of out of shape NYPD officers but these types of cameras are less than a pound.