The NYPD took a bold step into the future Wednesday morning in announcing a pilot program that will implement attachable cameras onto the uniforms of 54 cops across six precincts.
Following an exercise that simulated a routine traffic stop in which body cameras could be used, Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton held a press conference to detail the plan from inside the NYPD's new Flushing training facility.
"When something happens, to have the video record of it from the police officer's perspective is going to help in many, many ways. It's going to improve the work of law enforcement," said de Blasio, "and god forbid when something goes wrong, we're going to have a clearer understanding of what happened and whatever approaches we need to take as a result."
The mayor stressed that the program is being enacted as part of the settlement in the landmark Floyd vs. City of New York stop-and-frisk lawsuit. In accord with that settlement, the six precincts chosen for the pilot program have a historically high number of stop-and-frisks.
The installation of cameras is another effort to "protect and respect all the residents of this city," said de Blasio, and will increase the transparency and accountability of officers as well as the community members interacting with them. Bratton said he expects "reforms in behavior of officers and reforms in behavior of the public."
Of the 54 initial body cameras, all of which will be active by next week, the NYPD is experimenting with two technologies: one that records when activated after a 3.8 second delay, and another that records constantly in 30-second intervals.
The first cameras will be used in six types of situations, including enforcement encounters, vehicular stops and vertical patrols, said Jessica Tisch, the NYPD's deputy commissioner of information technology. Officers will not be required to activate their cameras if it is "unsafe or impractical to do so," she said.
Commissioner Bratton, who has been tracking the use of body cameras since 2005, said the pilot program is still in its very early stages and trial-and-error will dictate how the program is rolled out on a wider scale.
Some of the issues facing the implementation of cameras on New York City's 30,000 cops include data storage, for which the NYPD plans to utilize a cloud service, and battery life, as cameras will have to stay charged for the duration of a cop's 9-hour shift.
New York's body camera program, initially funded by a $50,000 investment by the New York City Police Foundation, is modeled after similar programs in London and Los Angeles. The three major cities are currently participating in a "full-scale exchange program," said Bratton, swapping information about body cameras as well as other progressive policing techniques.
"Having more visibility to what happened will help us to start having the real conversations we need to have to hold law enforcement accountable and create better relationships between our communities moving forward," said Rashad Robinson, executive director of non-profit ColorOfChange and CopWatchNYC, a website that empowers New Yorkers to monitor officers by filming police encounters.
"It's an important step by de Blasio," said Robinson, "but this is one of many steps that need to be taken."