New policy requires NYPD to release body camera footage

NEW YORK (AP) — A new policy will require New York City police to release all body camera footage of shootings and other instances when force is used and injury or death occurs, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday in what he billed as an additional step toward police reform.

The announcement regarding body cameras overturns a policy that gave the New York Police Department wide discretion on when it made the videos public. It came a day after the nation’s largest police department disbanded a plainclothes anti-crime unit long criticized for its aggressive tactics.

“Body-worn cameras are only as powerful as the transparency that comes with them,” de Blasio said. “This is a good thing for everyone involved. … When people see this kind of transparency, it will build trust.”

Starting in 2017, the NYPD began deploying 24,000 body cameras for its patrol force and other street units, the most in the nation by far. The previous policy required that the department make videos involving force public if the police commissioner found it would address a specific “public concern” and “preserve peace.”

The new policy calls for mandatory release of footage within 30 days if an officer fires a gun and hits someone or could have caused injury, uses a stun gun, or makes use of any other force that causes harm. The videos will be posted on the internet after civilians who were involved have seen it first, the mayor said.

The approach stands out in how it sets a fixed and relatively swift timeline for the public release of body cam video, something departments often delay or deny. It also could face a challenge from prosecutors seeking to preserve police footage for trials.

The Police Benevolent Association, New York’s largest police union, declined to comment.