What to Know
- 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.
- This is just one of various measures the city has announced in an effort to hold the NYPD accountable and provide transparency.
- On Wednesday, De Blasio said the disciplinary records of officers will now be made public. According to the mayor, all trial decisions involving members of the NYPD will now be published. By July, information on every pending case in the department including name, charges, hearing dates and even the resolutions will be made available.
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.
This is just one of various measures the city has announced in an effort to hold the NYPD accountable and provide transparency.
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.
On Wednesday morning, de Blasio announced additional policies.
De Blasio announced that disciplinary records of officers will now be made public. According to the mayor, all trial decisions involving members of the NYPD will now be published. By July, information on every pending case in the department including name, charges, hearing dates and even the resolutions will be made available.
De Blasio said that going forward, outcomes of the NYPD’s administrative proceedings against officers and their disciplinary records will be posted online. Next month, the public also will have access to information on about 1,100 pending cases, including names of officers, charges and hearing dates, the mayor said.
“We have to know that if something’s done right, it will be recognized and when something’s done wrong, it will be acted on,” de Blasio said. “When people know that, that’s what helps them have greater faith.”
He added: “I want everything we have to be put on online.”
In a statement, Police Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch said the releasing the disciplinary records does "absolutely nothing to 'protect' police officers." The PBA is New York's largest police union.
“Mayor de Blasio has just proved our point about the dangers of repealing Civil Rights Law Section 50-A. By superseding the city’s FOIL process to release police officers’ records, Mayor de Blasio has shown that FOIL does absolutely nothing to ‘protect’ police officers. It allows employers to release whatever they want, whenever and however they want," Lynch said in a statement.
Additionally, any incident leading up to substantial injury will have a decision by the NYPD police commissioner within 48 hours -- deciding whether to suspend or modify officer duty. The Internal Affairs Bureau will also have to investigations conducted within two weeks, the mayor announced.
“All we have ever asked for in police discipline is fairness and due process. The Mayor’s proposal amounts to ‘no process.’ The only way to complete every investigation – even large and complex ones – within an arbitrary political deadline is to predetermine the outcome in every case. In the current environment, every police officer knows what that outcome will be," Lynch said regarding the IAB investigations.
However, de Blasio said the moves were part of transparency that should be embraced.
"Transparency is not something to fear but something to embrace because that's where trust and faith will deepen, when people see that all this information is out in the open," de Blasio said Wednesday.
Also Wednesday, the state’s attorney general held the first of two days of remote hearings on the NYPD’s rough treatment of people protesting in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Letitia James is investigating allegations that officers used excessive force to quell unrest and enforce a citywide curfew. Clashes caught on video showed police vehicles ramming a crowd, an officer pulling down a man’s mask and pepper spraying him in the face and an officer violently shoving a woman, causing her to hit the back of her head on the pavement.
That woman, Dounya Zayer, testified that she has suffered constant migraines and struggled to keep down food after the May 29 shove left her in the hospital with a seizure and concussion.
Zayer, who said she fears retaliation if she leaves her home, got angry when James suggested the officers involved in harming her “really don’t reflect the vast majority of the officers and NYPD.”
“Where are the good cops that I keep hearing of?” Zayer said. “I thank you for your sympathy, but I don’t want to hear there are good cops when not a single good cop helped me.”