NYPD Finally Releases A Body Camera Policy That Gives The Department Plenty Of Ways To Withhold Footage

from the transparency-pantomime dept

The NYPD has finally finalized its body-worn camera footage release policy. It’s not much better than its initial public offering, which sought public input and then ignored every bit of the public’s input to craft an officer-friendly deployment policy that left the act of recording to officer discretion.

Even the vague promise of eventually releasing BWC footage to the public was too much for the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association to bear. The NYC PBA sued to prevent the release of body camera footage to the public. This lawsuit was pursued as PBA President Pat Lynch made claims about officers’ resistance to body-worn cameras that were contradicted by NYPD officers’ statements.

Something the former mayor thought would be a “gotcha” tool to persecute otherwise fine officers has actually had zero effect on officer accountability or NYPD transparency to this point. It’s not going to get any better either. The official policy [PDF] released by the NYPD still gives the public the shaft.

The editorial board for the New York Daily News sums it up nicely:

[V]ideo from the cameras cops wear — which, after all, the public pay for — should be presumed subject to release, with narrow exceptions clearly articulated by NYPD brass.

To the contrary, [Police Commissioner Jimmy] O’Neill’s memo says “the Department will decide when to publicly release BWC (body-worn camera) footage of a critical incident within 30 calendar days.” Just a decision within a month?

That’s all the NYPD is promising: a “decision” within 30 days. It’s not promising release within 30 days. It’s just promising to think about it in a somewhat timely manner. That’s the best New York residents are going to get from their Finest.

The NYPD also has plenty of options allowing it to decide — within 30 days — that it won’t be releasing anything at all. Exceptions abound.

Any public release of BWC footage may be delayed, redacted, or in some cases, the Department may forego public release, in order to:

a. Comply with federal, state, or local law governing disclosure of records or existing Department procedures,
b. Protect confidential sources and witnesses,
c. Protect a person’s right to a fair trial,
d. Protect the identity of victims of sex crimes, domestic violence and juveniles,
e. Protect the privacy, life or safety of any person, and/or
f. Avoid undue trauma due to explicit or graphic content.

This all may sound reasonable and thoughtful, but in the context of this policy, it gives the NYPD multiple ways to withhold footage that doesn’t show its officers in the best light. This policy covers release of recordings containing the use of deadly or excessive force and other incidents the Police Commissioner feels may “address vast public attention.”

Footage that is exonerative will be cleared for release. Footage that isn’t will be withheld. The excuses are built in.

Consider the death of Eric Garner. Officer Daniel Pantaleo deployed an against-policy chokehold and killed Garner. If body cam footage had been captured, this policy would have exempted it from release. Officer Pantaleo was criminally charged. “Protecting the right to a fair trial” would be invoked. Possibly the “undue trauma” exception as well.

If an officer rapes someone, beats a domestic partner on camera (there is precedent!), or violates the right of a juvenile, this footage could be withheld under the “protect the victims” exception, even though it’s a cop committing the crime. If this seems like an impossibility, let’s not forget officers invoking victims’ rights laws to keep the press from publishing their names while discussing their lawsuits and/or prosecutions. Sure, the public will call bullshit, but the NYPD still has control of the recordings.

The exemption for federal law is another dodge. There are no federal agencies utilizing body cameras. In fact, until recently, partnering with a federal agency meant turning off body cameras or leaving them back at the station. Anything involving federal officers will likely be deemed unreleasable, no matter how high the level of public interest.

This isn’t even up to the level of “will this do?” This is the NYPD giving residents what the NYPD wants while pretending it cares about transparency or accountability.

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Comments on “NYPD Finally Releases A Body Camera Policy That Gives The Department Plenty Of Ways To Withhold Footage”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Well we’re a society of sociopaths, so we should expect this type of doublespeak, not just from these folks, but everyone. We’ve broken free of silly things like honor, truth, integrity, etc. except as a means of invoking them so our adversaries let their guard down, trust us, and we can be "Lucy" blaming "Charlie Brown" for trying to kick the football.

Annonymouse says:

Re: Re: Re:

To clarify that in even simpler terms
Being honourable means doing what is expected of you

Samurai – Kill whomever you are told to and die for your lord
Mamluks – Kill, live and die on the word of your owners
Knights – follow the code and obey your lord no matter what

Nowhere in the history or definition of the term does honour cover mercy, compassion, intelligence or discretion.

This is not to be confused with chivalry – the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight or Lady, especially courage, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak

ECA (profile) says:

lets ask..

Why in hell would you want the police wearing Cameras?
Or even to have them in cars??

while driving you can check to see if its lawful, no speeding when not needed, no Crashes you cant account for, ID the cars in front of them? keep it on record…For police safety if something happens to the officer ..

Which sounds pretty good, when a Citizen complains of a problem and you can CHECK it on tape.

So what about the personal cams?? Ummmm…. The SAME reasons.. And that WE/gov/state came to a conclusion that even a police officer Can/may be wrong about something. And this can help solve it.
But let me ask, what thought came to someones head, that a Police officer is a Perfect observer.. that He has a 100% over Anyone else in a situation??

A camera can save him, and the city Tons of money..
Why wouldnt you want it ON all working hours?
why would you put yourself, others, and the city, into a situation, where it could be dangerous…
Why do 12 out of 12 cameras at a Situation, ALL Stop recording about the same time?.. When STUFF happens??

And isnt it Public record?
NYPD, the police union, and anyone else, CAN HAVE NO SAY..
And if they wish to walk off the job…I can have a book of addresses OUT in the public in a matter of….. TO STAND in front of their homes…protesting, that they are tired of PAYING for their mistakes.. That an honorable person DONT turn off cameras designed to protect THEM, as well as the public..

How about we do this another way.
If something happens and it goes to court… and there isnt any camera footage… THE COPS LOOSE.. that should really get the publics Nose into a joint..and start demanding that there is no Privacy on the job.. Go take a wizz, and use the camera..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: lets ask..

I’m really not clear about what you’re trying to say (as with literally all of your posts). A lot of words and little discernible meaning. But I’ll respond to the general gist I picked up from it.

A police department that willingly puts the cameras on its officers and that has a good track record of leaving them on when it matters is a department you can probably trust is doing their jobs correctly. By obvious extension, one which refuses to do the same would seem to have a lot to hide. Given that we’re discussing the NYPD this seems blatantly obvious.

It’s time to dismantle police unions and aggressively fire and/or imprison officers who violate the public trust they are charged with serving. Given that police are government employees I would think the government has the power to ban the unions and get this done. If it cared to.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Smile, you're on candid oh wait never mind.

Ask a stupid question…

In what JOB are you not responsible to the Employer??
And if you did something stupid, not a minor Stupid..A good sized Stupid…

Would you still have a job??

the job of the police has gotten scary.. WHY?
Is it the action of certain police, or is it the Citizens, or is there NOT enough police to do a job? 1 in 1000 cits, 1 police in 10,000 cits? Its a big job. and few want it,because they WANT to go home at the end of the nite.

I would ask that 1 thing be made clear to crooks..DONT SHOOT COPS..20 years wont be enough. They can let you out and every cop will be looking for you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Smile, you're on candid oh wait never mind.

I would ask that 1 thing be made clear to crooks..DONT SHOOT COPS..20 years wont be enough. They can let you out and every cop will be looking for you.

How many cops have been shot by crooks comapred to how many citizens have been shot by cops?

So if a crook shoots a cop, assuming he lives through his trial, and is released in 20 years the cops will still be looking for him. If a cop shoota a citizen, in 20 years they will be collecting their retirement in all but the most egregious cases.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Smile, you're on candid oh wait never mind.

go watch every cop/fed/… show onTV, done in the last 20 years and it looks like every cop has been shot.

And dont consider it PROGRAMMING..
Cits= you never get away.
Cits= never carry a gun, or you will get shot..you get shot any way because..
Cop= Every Cit has a gun.
Cop= we always get the right person..Even if we have to shoot the dog and little Girl.

Rebecca Webb (profile) says:

Assignment Help Online

The NYPD officially offers the fitness lens after a New York State Police charity tried to block its release, saying it violated the officials’ right to confidentiality. I also work at Assignment Help Online UK and I consider that The union, which represents more than 20,000 NYPD members, believes that camera lenses should be classified as employees’ documents and the decision says their confidentiality is protected by state law.

bobob says:

Considering the number of incident that have shown the nypd (at the risk of way understating the case), "not in the best light," the body cam policy is unlikely change until there are enough incidents and enough "not released videos" that they have a riot on their hands. Despite all of the evidence throughout history, no one running the show seems to have learned that once enough people get fed up, there is already a critical mass of pissed off people that will protest and riot.

Annonymouse says:

Re: Re:

I am not sure what the critical level is for things happening on mass is but I do know we are getting there. The last few years have had an ever increasing incidence of outliers who decided that the cops were the problem and needed to be eliminated.

Just how long before the occasional RAMBO incident becomes an episode of Gunsmoke and a town retires their local gang of blue thugs?

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