Across our city — and across the nation — the use of police body-worn cameras is on the rise. More than any other technology, body-worn cameras have the dual role of helping fight crime while promoting greater transparency and public trust in law enforcement.
The NYPD rolled out its own pilot program last December, equipping 54 officers across several precincts with body-worn cameras. So how is the program going?
On Thursday, the Department of Investigation’s Office of the Inspector General for the NYPD released the first comprehensive review of the NYPD’s program. Our report is based on extensive investigation and research, including interviews with officers, NYPD leadership, the city’s district attorneys, community advocates, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, and an examination of the body camera programs of over 20 other police departments across the country.
While the NYPD’s current body-worn camera policy reflects a strong start, we identified several issues that need to be remedied before the NYPD expands its program. Our 23 recommendations — which cover camera activation, protecting the anonymity of certain groups, retention periods, and access to video — will help improve police-community relations while also protecting the safety of officers and the public.
Furthermore, any expansion of the NYPD’s program must include community input. Consistent with Commissioner Bill Bratton’s desire to partner with the public, the NYPD will benefit from incorporating the perspectives of New York City’s thoughtful and diverse communities.
As the NYPD expands its body-worn camera program, it has the opportunity to be a nationwide model. Resolving these complicated issues, with community input, is a critical step to getting there.
Mark Peters is commissioner of the city Department of Investigation and Philip Eure is the department’s inspector general for the NYPD.