NYPD Rolls Out Body Camera’s Uptown

The NYPD began rolling its body camera program Thursday in the 34th police precinct — which spans the Washington Heights and Inwood neighborhoods — department officials told Patch.

Starting Thursday, the 50 34th precinct patrol officers on-duty from 4 p.m. to midnight will be equipped with body-worn cameras to document interactions between the police and citizens. Officers will be ordered to record all arrests, uses of force, searches, interactions with criminal suspects and interactions with people who are “emotionally disturbed,” an NYPD spokesman said.

“Today is a historic day, as we deploy the first full tour of New York City police officers ever to formally wear body worn cameras,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.

“These cameras 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.”

The NYPD’s body-worn camera policy has been in the works since 2014. To craft its policy, the NYPD consulted roughly 50 other police departments around the country already using cameras and worked with more than 30 New York City stakeholders including the District Attorney, Public Advocate the New York Civil Liberties Union and citizen groups.

By the end of 2017 more cameras — manufactured by a company called Vievu — will be distributed to other NYPD precincts and by the end of 2020 every NYPD officer will be equipped with a body-worn camera, an NYPD official said.

In January, de Blasio announced that the city and Police Benevolent Association agreed to the body-worn camera policy as part of its five-year agreement between the union and the city. The PBA agreed to drop all ongoing litigation related to body cameras, a reform proposition at which the union had previously balked.

“The NYPD has worked incredibly hard to build meaningful relationships between New York City’s communities and the officers who protect them,” Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill said in a statement. “Not only will body-worn cameras enhance transparency and accountability, they will improve the trust that continues to grow between New Yorkers and the police.”

Police departments around the country have increasingly turned to body cameras amid a nationwide focus on the disproportionate lethal force used against black Americans by officers, although some reform advocates have raised concerns about the impact of body-worn camera policies on citizens’ privacy.

Image via Ryan Johnson on Flickr.

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