New York City plans to invest heavily in body cameras over the next two years. Today, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, along with Commissioner James O’Neill, announced that the city’s entire police force will wear body cameras by the end of 2019. De Blasio tweeted that the city reached an agreement with the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association that ultimately pushed this initiative forward. He says both taxpayers and officers are “making contributions,” but it’s unclear exactly what he means.
A contract to outfit the entire police force with cameras could be worth up to a quarter of a billion dollars over 14 years.
This deal has been in the works for months. This past year, the city chose VieVu as its camera supplier for 5,000 units, and this past summer, a draft policy circulated that pertained to the situations when an officer would be required to activate his or her camera. These recording times can get tricky depending on the scenario. During protests, for instance, police might not wear cameras so as to not conduct surveillance of a constitutionally protected activity. We don’t yet have the official policy draft. Meanwhile, New York state hasn’t passed any law regarding public access to body camera footage, so we don’t know how taxpayers can view the captured footage.
Body cameras have proliferated over the past few years, especially following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island. While the video footage can be helpful during court decisions, the record can also be incomplete, difficult to obtain, or deleted.