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In the coming weeks, the New York City Police Department will be rolling out their body camera program to over 1,000 officers. The cameras will record interactions officers have with the public in an effort to increase the transparency of NYC's police practices, which have come under increasing scrutiny due to failing stop and frisk policies, as well as excessive force incidents.
Last Friday, a federal district court judge in Manhattan denied a motion to delay the roll out due to alleged problems with the program. Critics claim that the program does not go far enough and does not require enough types of interactions to be recorded. Perhaps the most concerning criticism involves officers being allowed to review their own body cam footage before making statements or writing reports.
A few years back, as part of the class action challenging the stop and frisk policy of the NYPD, a federal court ordered that the department must institute a body camera policy for officers and change the stop and frisk policy. Up until this point, there have only been a handful of officers wearing the cameras. But now, that is all set to change.
The hope is that with the new body cameras, the number of incidents of police misconduct, excessive force, and police brutality will be drastically reduced. By next month, the NYPD will have over 5,000 body cameras in use. While officers may be able to review their own footage before making statements or writing reports, the cameras are still expected to have a significant impact on reducing incidents, reducing complaints, and increasing transparency and accountability.
When it comes to criminal defense, any body camera footage should be turned over by the prosecution during the regular course of a case. However, in civil actions for excessive force, or police misconduct, individuals may need to cut through some red tape to get body camera, or even dash cam, footage. Making a FOIA request, or filing a subpoena, as early as possible after an incident is advisable, as is sending a letter or administrative claim form, explaining that the camera footage is essential to a legal claim and should be preserved.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
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