NYC to refine body camera policies
- By Derek Major
- Aug 04, 2015
Policies governing body-worn cameras need clarificationbefore New York City expands its test program to 1,000 officers, according to the New York City Inspector General’s Office analysis of the pilot program.
The New York Police Department’s Volunteer BWC Pilot Program was launched in September 2014 with 54 officers in six precincts wearing the cameras. Two BWC models were used: the Axon Flex, manufactured by Taser, and the Vievu LE3.
Video recording is activated when the officer pushes the power button, and the cameras can record continuously for at least four hours. At the end of an officer’s shift, the video is uploaded to either a local server maintained by the police department or a cloud-based storage platform maintained by the camera manufacturer.
The IG’s report made 23 recommendations for improving the use of body-worn cameras targeting five areas:
- Officer discretion regarding when to record
- Notifications to citizens by officers when a BWC is activated
- Safeguards to ensure officer compliance with BWC policy
- Access to footage by officers and the public
- Retention and purging of BWC footage
The IG recommended that officers be directed to turn the cameras on more frequently when engaging with suspects, and less often when talking to victims and informants. Consequences for officers failing to record when required to should be made clear. And video should be kept for 18 months as opposed to the pilot program's current 12-month archiving policy.
Technology challenges include managing the volume of data associated with video, as well as the costs associated with categorizing, searching, redacting or blurring video in response to records requests. The IG recommended that NYPD resolve most of the issues raised before expanding the BWC program.
Body cameras on police have been a hot topic for more than a year as communities seek to improve relations between the police and local residents by using the cameras to deter misconduct or document it. Many states have started their own pilot programs, but little consensus has yet emerged on either the technologies or policies involved.
Derek Major is a former reporter for GCN.