NYPD: Bill requiring quarterly body camera reviews unrealistic

City council members and NYPD officials clashed over the department's video review process

Rocco Parascandola
New York Daily News

NEW YORK CITY — There’s a growing NYPD body cam video trove — and some City Council members think it’s time the public see more of it.

During a three-hour meeting of the council’s Public Safety Committee on Monday, the NYPD said officers have recorded 8 million videos on their body-worn cameras, and are adding 130,000 more to the tally each week.

But the department said it couldn’t support a bill requiring quarterly reports that explain videos taken in the previous three months, arguing it doesn’t have the staff needed to review and analyze each video as quickly as the council would like.

And it pointed to a new rule on how and when to release body cam footage to the public within 30 days — usually in response to a Freedom Of Information Law request, or media inquiry — saying the policy should be given time to work.

The internal Oct. 18 operations order calls for the release of unedited footage to an investigating agency, like a District Attorney’s office. The public will get “representative samples of the [body worn camera] video(s) depicting the critical incident, as well as, any salient events leading up to the event," the NYPD says.

“There is no policy where we take the approach: this is written in stone and refuse to go back and change it," said Oleg Chernyavsky, NYPD deputy commissioner of Legal Matters. “Let’s see how it works. If there are problems with it, if there are issues we are certainly open to addressing it.”

Some council members pushed back.

City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Queens) said while some redactions — for privacy issues, for example —are understandable, releasing edited video will cost the NYPD the trust of the public next time a high-profile incident is captured on a body cam.

“Here’s the way to do it better,” Lancman said. “That footage should be released. It should not be subject to any subjective edit on part of the department.”

City Councilman Donovan Richard (D-Queens), who chairs the committee, said the NYPD operations order “reads as a series of vague considerations...”

“The result is that many people are rightly concerned that the department can decided to release footage only when it looks good to them," he added.

In 2013, a federal judge ordered an NYPD camera program after ruling cops had violated the rights of minorities by using stop and frisk unconstitutionally. A subsequent pilot program was then expanded, in stages, throughout the entire department.

More than 24,000 cops now wear cameras.

The NYPD this week is expected to begin releasing footage from several recent police-involved shootings, including the friendly fire shooting that killed Officer Brian Mulkeen on Sept. 29.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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