Hundreds of New York police officers have been ordered to wear cameras in an effort to record arrests and impromptu "stop-and-frisk" searches. Judge Shira Scheindlin, who recently called for a broad overhaul of New York City's stop-and-frisk program, has ordered the New York Police Department to test wearable cameras in areas where stop-and-frisk was used the most last year. Judge Scheindlin aims to create an "objective record" of the activity, a particular method that Scheindlin says must be brought "into compliance with the Constitution."
The cameras are designed to curb complaints and provide a video record of interactions between officers and members of the public. Several police departments have been testing a Taser Cam manufactured by the same company who developed the Taser electroshock weapon. Opinion is split on how police departments should handle policy around the devices, as police offers can choose when and what to record from on-body camera systems. In New York City's case, Mayor Michael Bloomberg — a staunch defender of stop-and-frisk — has branded the cameras "a nightmare" as they won't capture entire interactions.
Bloomberg claims New York City's stop-and-frisk program has played a role in decreasing crime in the city, but he has also dismissed complaints that black and Hispanic people were subject to a disproportionate amount of searches. Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that "officers must cease the targeting of young black and Hispanic males for stops based on the appearance of these groups in crime complaints." While there's clearly some racial disparities, if the judge's ruling goes into effect then the video feeds from officer's cameras will likely reveal the decisions behind some stops, and help prevent officers from misinterpreting the law.