During the landmark federal stop-and-frisk trial last year, Judge Shira Scheindlin recommended that the NYPD should adopt body-mounted cameras to monitor officers' encounters with citizens. After some back and forth about who would pay for them, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton unveiled those body cameras today, kicking off the program to train officers in using them in the field. "When something happens, to have a video record of it, from the police officers’ perspective, is going to help in many, many ways,” de Blasio said at the press conference. "And God forbid, when something goes wrong, we are going to have a clearer sense of what happened."
"We have to make sure we are doing it right and we are accounting for the privacy concerns and the technological concerns," the mayor added. As was detailed a few months ago, there are two main devices: one will be strapped to the front of the officer's shirt, while the other can be worn on the officer's ear, glasses, collar or shoulder.
The LE3 (manufactured by Vievu) is the single-piece camera that can be worn by officers on their chests. It has no 30 second pre-record feature, but it is much less obtrusive than the other model, and can be easily activated by the officer lowering the shutter on their chest.
The Axon Flex (made by TASER) is the ear piece: it constantly records video, deleting everything that happens more than thirty seconds in the past. However, once an officer activates its record function, the previous thirty seconds before he or she pressed record will remain on record. This would enable the NYPD to document what precipitated an incident. The downside to the apparatus is that it doesn't capture audio and is worn in two pieces, with the battery pack having to be placed elsewhere on the officer's body.
Initially for the pilot program, the cameras will only be worn by 60 officers in five precincts and one public housing project: 23rd Precinct (East Harlem), the 40th Precinct (the South Bronx), the 75th Precinct (East New York, Brooklyn), the 103rd Precinct (Jamaica, Queens), the 120th Precinct (Staten Island), and Police Service Area 2, which patrols public housing projects in Brooklyn. Officials say that these precincts were chosen based on the highest rates of stop-and-frisk incidents (the 120th Precinct is also where Eric Garner was fatally stopped by police).
The use of body cameras will make our streets safer and our police more effective. pic.twitter.com/qxoIt2m3HV
— Bill de Blasio (@BilldeBlasio) December 3, 2014
Nine officers who have already been trained in using the cameras will be on the streets this weekend, a month earlier than expected; officials hope to get the rest of the officers up to speed in coming weeks. The program will cost around $50,000, and is being paid for by the Police Foundation.
The Times adds that cops are being outfitted with even more new technology:
The New York program will last several months and will be rolled out as a part of a broader effort to increase the technical capabilities of department. In addition to the cameras, 35,000 police officers will be issued specially programmed smartphones. Additionally, about 6,000 tablet computers will be distributed to help officers obtain real-time information while in the field.
"Body cameras are one of the ways to create a real sense of transparency and accountability," said de Blasio said. What is not yet clear is how the public will be able to access to that footage—or whether it will even be made public.