Procedure provides accountability while seeking to improve trust between officers and the public
New York, New York— Today the New York City Police Department announced the release of its proposed police officer body-worn camera (BWC) procedure. The language of the proposed procedure ensures officers participating in the body-worn camera pilot program capture objective records of encounters, while encouraging lawful and respectful interactions between the public and the police. This updated procedure has been submitted to Peter Zimroth, the NYPD federal monitor, for his review and approval.
The body-worn camera procedure is the culmination of a yearlong proactive outreach effort that included key stakeholders and advocates, including: the NYPD Inspector General, the NYC’s respective District Attorneys, members of the New York City Council, Public Advocate, New York Civil Liberties Union, Civilian Complaint Review Board, Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, Citizens Crime Commission, and more.
Significant provisions of the policy cover when and under what circumstances cameras should activated, how footage can be viewed, retention of footage, and the release of footage to the public:
• Activation of cameras: Mandatory activation during all enforcement and investigative encounters. Mandatory deactivation during interactions with confidential informants or sex crime victims, as well as internal meetings and training.
• Viewing of footage: An officer may view his or her own, and other officers’ BWC footage in the furtherance of official duties (arrest processing, etc.). During an official department investigation, including serious injury or death of a person, or an officer firearms discharge, the officer concerned may view his or her own BWC recordings at a time deemed appropriate by the supervisor in charge of the investigation before being required a compelled statement.
• Retention of footage: Body camera footage will be retained for one year (and can be retained longer on a case by case basis)
• Release of footage: The procedure will also cover how and when footage is released to prosecutors, during litigation, and to the public.
“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. “Not only will body-worn cameras enhance transparency and accountability, they will further improve the trust that continues to grow in these relationships.”
“The NYPD’s innovative neighborhood policing strategy has strengthened the relationship between police and communities. And as trust has grown, crime has declined,” said Mayor de Blasio. “The proposed procedures announced today have been shaped by the input of New Yorkers, police officers, civil rights advocates and law enforcement from around the country. These protocols will guide a new day of policing in New York City that will further bolster the atmosphere of transparency and accountability that has grown in recent years, helping us continue to keep New York City the safest big city in the country.”
Training: Officers participating in the BWC rollout will be given a customized one-day training course at the NYPD Police Academy in Queens. The curriculum will include an overview of the program, a review of BWC videos, participation in role-play scenarios, and a workshop explaining the video management software. Beyond this initial training, each participating precinct’s training sergeant will oversee a 90-day field-training period at the precinct—in conjunction with the Risk Management Bureau and the Information Technology Bureau.
Background on drafting the policy: In addition to reaching out to stakeholders, the Department also proactively launched two online questionnaires in conjunction with New York University to gather additional insight from both NYPD officers, and the general public. The Policing Project at the NYU School of Law hosted the online questionnaire for members of the public and provided the Department with a report detailing their results. The Marron Institute of Urban Management at NYU hosted the questionnaire for NYPD officers and provided the Department with an analysis of the results. The public responded with overwhelming support for body-worn cameras:
• 92% said that NYPD officers should use body-worn cameras
• 73%, or more, believed the cameras would improve police/community relations, public safety, officer safety, and the conduct of both officers and members of the public when they are interacting with each other
• 80% said they would feel comfortable reporting a crime to an officer wearing a body-worn camera.
Feedback from officers who participated in the initial BWC pilot program has also been positive. Officers noted members of the public were receptive to the BWC and that footage from the cameras proved helpful with police investigations, and with allegations of misconduct. In the report being released today, the Department responds to that input, explaining its reasoning in reaching important policy decisions.
The Department in formulating its procedure reviewed the policies of 50 other departments across the country. Based on the Department’s research and the accompanying feedback, the NYPD made several modifications to the initial BWC procedure, including:
• Instructions to officers about giving notice to individuals being recorded (including reasonable exceptions)
• Lifting a previous ban on recording at demonstrations
• Increasing of the retention period for untagged footage from six months to a year.
• Guidance about where a BWC should be worn