NYC Police Union Sues to Curb Body Cam Video Release

As New York City plans to equip all patrol officers with body cameras by the end of 2019, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which represents nearly two-thirds of the city’s 36,000 officers, is seeking to stop the police department from releasing the resulting footage without a court order.

When a New York City police officer shoots a civilian, should the public see video of the shooting captured on police body cameras? Or should that footage be shielded, as performance evaluations and disciplinary actions are? The issue is at the heart of a lawsuit filed on Tuesday by the city’s largest police union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the New York Times reports. As the city plans to equip all patrol officers with body cameras by the end of 2019, the union, which represents nearly two-thirds of the city’s 36,000 officers, is seeking to stop the police department from releasing the resulting footage without a court order.

The department considers releasing body camera video of “critical incidents,” like police shootings, on a case-by-case basis. The police commissioner makes the final decision after consulting with the district attorney in the borough where the shooting took place. So far, under Commissioner James O’Neill, the department has released edited footage of three police shootings, including two that were fatal. Union lawyers argue that the videos — raw or edited — are personnel records shielded from public disclosure by the state civil rights law, a statute that also protects officers’ performance evaluations and disciplinary records. The issue of what the public is permitted to see is an issue of  national debate over body cameras, as police departments, officers’ unions, lawmakers and watchdog organizations wrestle over what makes for the best policy.

from https://thecrimereport.org