A lot has been said and written about police body cameras in recent years, and now the NYC media and residents will get a first-hand chance to weigh in. A recent Associated Press report said that the NYPD is about to deploy the first body cameras in the city to its officers very soon. The cameras are meant to serve as an accountability option, but implementing the program was not as simple as some might assume. First, the department had to determine when the cameras would be switched on, when to inform the public they are being recorded and how long to keep those recordings. As you might imagine, certain privacy advocates and police activists have some rather poignant opinions on this matter.
To avoid creating the very kind of negative feedback the cameras are supposed to discourage, the department had to resolve these issues before the cameras hit the streets. They also had to figure out how to monitor and regulate the use of these cameras by police officers. Making the entire situation a bit more tense was the fact that the department is not really making this upgrade by choice. The move was ordered by a federal judge after the NYPD was found to have “wrongly targeted black and Hispanic men using stop and frisk…”
When the cameras were first suggested, both the cops and the general public were split on the issue. Some welcomed the oversight and the accountability as a potential protection for both police and civilians. Others on both sides panned them as unnecessary invasions of privacy. That federal judge took the “if” out of the equation, leaving both sides to make the best of it and try to keep lines of communication open. To get that ball rolling, the NYPD opened a survey asking questions about how to implement and operate the cameras. About 30,000 people responded to the anonymous survey, including 5,000 cops.
One of the most popular requests from the civilians? They wanted to know when they were being recorded, so that request was considered and accepted as part of the implementation. When that announcement was made turned out to be an involved discussion. Police spokesmen said they wanted to make sure people felt heard, and knew their privacy rights were being respected. They didn’t want the presence of a body camera to deter citizens who might otherwise offer information to the police that could help solving crimes.
Of course, even though the program has been implemented, you can be sure the discussion is not over. It will be a popular topic for the foreseeable future as people decide if the rules before implementation work now that the cameras are on the street.