Thursday, September 4, 2014

Past NYPD experience with video cameras shows pattern of editing to thwart accountability for misconduct

The NYPD have a history of manipulating their own videos, as a 2004 City Council report found

Excerpt from Chapter 7 of "Roots of Betrayal : The Ethics of Christine Quinn"

A special report from the City Council Committee on Governmental Operations showed that, “In the aftermath of the numerous confrontations between demonstrators and police at the February 15th rally the Civilian Complaint Review Board (“CCRB”) investigated 54 complaints containing 114 allegations of misconduct by police officers.” Among the NYPD violations the report found was that the police department’s Technical Assistance Response Unit provided to CCRB heavily edited videos in a deliberate effort to disguise the police officers who committed violations. “Thus, many complaints were dropped where the officers went unidentified.” This is how the NYPD operated when it knew its actions were not going to be supervised or subjected to any accountability.

From Chapter 7 of ''Roots of Betrayal : The Ethics of Christine Quinn'' by Louis Flores (Scribd)

How can CCRB, much less the public, have faith and trust in NYPD officers maintaining control over their own body cameras ?

According to news reports, the New York Police Department are considering a pilot program to video record police officers on duty. NYPD Commissioner William Bratton told reporters that the pilot program under consideration would allow police officers to control the activation of their own body cameras, raising concerns amongst police reform activists and civil libertarians.

How can the press honestly report that this is a "pilot program," and that a police department program aiming to film their own operations is about to be created ? The NYPD have been filming their own operations for years. What is more, many charge that the NYPD make video recordings of activists' peaceful and lawful political activities, which constitutes violations of activists Constitutional, civil rights, civil liberties, and other rights. Some of these records also violate a court order known as the Handschu Agreement. The proposal to use body cameras has been criticised by civil libertarian advocates, who question the police motivations to record innocent citizens. With the NYPD's experience and technology, they have already demonstrated a track record of how they mishandle their own video records and of the recordings of innocent New Yorkers. Based on a report about police misconduct published over a decade ago by the New York City Council, it has been shown that the NYPD cannot be trusted to record themselves, because, in the past, the NYPD have deliberately edited videos of their own performance with the blatant intention to circumvent accountability and oversight for their own misconduct, brutality, and other violations of police procedures.

Some police reform activists believe that recording police while they are on duty is a good reform, but not all police reform activists agree. Others take share the same concerns of civil libertarians. However, if there is a way to fully address the concerns of civil libertarians, for the use of body cameras to work, police officers should not be able to control, limit, turn on, or turn off their body cameras in any way. For body cameras to work, both the audio and video should be recorded during the entire duration of police officers' shifts. This information should be stored for as many years as it would be needed to facilitate the frequent federal, state, and municipal investigations into police misconduct. However, it remains to be seen whether the concerns of civil libertarians can truly be addressed. Over the decades, the NYPD have created so much distrust in New York City. The proposal to use body cameras is already polarising some in the police reform activist community. Based on the lack of trust and faith between the NYPD and citizens, it's difficult to tell whether everybody's concerns can be fully addressed.


50 NYPD cops set to begin wearing body cameras in pilot program (The New York Daily News)

''Roots of Betrayal : The Ethics of Christine Quinn'' by Louis Flores (Scribd)

Report and Briefing Paper, The New York City Council, Committee on Government Operations, 16 June 2004 (Scribd)

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