The New York Police Department last week sent the first batch of officers on patrol with body-worn cameras and plans a rapid expansion in their use.
The first use, by officers of the 34th Precinct, which covers Washington Heights, will involve 50 Vievu cameras used on the 4 p.m. to midnight shift. Twenty of the agency’s 77 precincts will take part in the initial 1,200-camera trial. Other precincts will be outfitted by the end of the year with an expected 5,000 cameras deployed in 2018 and 22,000 by 2019.
“The NYPD has worked incredibly hard to build meaningful relationships between New York City’s communities and the officers who protect them,” said Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill at a press conference before the roll-out. “Not only will body-worn cameras enhance transparency and accountability, they will improve the trust that continues to grow between New Yorkers and the police.”
The NYPD body-worn camera program has been underway since 2014, backed by Mayor Bill de Blasio and then-Police Commissioner William Bratton.
“Body cameras are going to be an important additional step in the reforms that we’re undertaking,” said De Blasio when the program was launched. “And I think that step is going to greatly increase the confidence of the people in their relationship with the NYPD.”
In the past three years, a proposed body camera policy was worked out after consulting other agencies who use the devices as well as a pilot program by the NYPD in 2015.
The adopted policy requires officers to use their cameras in all use of force incidents as well as arrests, searches, response to crimes in progress and “interactions with emotionally disturbed people.” Officers must record incidents from start to finish or when a suspect is still on the scene and do not have to request permission to film an individual.
Untagged footage will be archived for one year and clips covering crimes or investigations held pending court proceedings. Video can be requested by the public via FOIL requests.