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Court Orders NYPD to Film All Citizen Encounters with Body Cameras

Order Calls for Pilot Program to Study Effectiveness of Filming All Encounters

Late yesterday, a federal court ordered the NYPD to begin using body-worn cameras to film all police-citizen investigative encounters – including low level interactions – as part of a pilot program to study the relative benefits and drawbacks of putting such a policy in place for the entire NYPD. This pilot program is born out of a community-generated reform process, and follows a request by the attorneys behind the three landmark cases that challenged the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk and trespass enforcement practices (Floyd v. City of New YorkLigon v. City of New York, and Davis v. City of New York), as well as a coalition of community stakeholders, who called for a court order requiring the NYPD to implement changes developed by impacted New Yorkers.

“As New Yorkers have continually demanded, the NYPD needs additional accountability tools to prevent future misconduct,” said Angel Harris, Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc and counsel for the Davis plaintiffs. “Reforms like this are most effective when they address the concerns and lived experience of communities most affected by the NYPD’s unlawful stop-and-frisk and trespass enforcement practices. That’s why this body-worn camera pilot program is so critical, and we hope the court will continue requiring the NYPD to implement the remaining community-generated reforms.”

The community input process, ordered by the court to address the NYPD’s constitutional violations and known as the Joint Remedial Process, was conducted over the last three years. In May, the court-appointed facilitator overseeing the Joint Remedial Process issued a report on his recommendations based on community input, and the plaintiffs asked the court to order the NYPD to implement his suggested changes. So far, the NYPD continues to oppose the facilitator’s proposed reforms.

Today’s order issued by the court requires the NYPD to use body-worn cameras to film all low-level police-citizen encounters, otherwise known as “Level 1 and 2 investigative encounters”, as part of a pilot program aimed at assessing the effectiveness and feasibility of this change. This reform was shaped by community input and recommended by the court-appointed facilitator of the Joint Remedial Process. After the pilot, the court-appointed monitor will report to the court on whether the program should be expanded or terminated.

“This reform is a step toward transparency that, if done right, will help ensure officers are complying with the law when they use the stop-and-frisk practice,” said Jenn Rolnick Borchetta, Deputy Director of Impact Litigation at The Bronx Defenders.

“To be an effective transparency and accountability tool, body-worn cameras must capture the full range of police-civilian encounters on the streets of New York City,” said Darius Charney, a Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights and counsel for the Floyd plaintiffs. “We hope that this pilot will be the first step towards reaching that goal.”

This is the second court-ordered reform in response to the community input process, with the first requiring a pilot program to study the usefulness and viability of electronically recording all police-citizen encounters. The facilitator’s other proposed reforms include progressive discipline standards for officers who violate peoples’ rights during stop encounters, a community board and survey to assess the NYPD’s implementation of the court-ordered reforms, and improved information on people with disabilities in stop-and-frisk training. The court has yet to rule on those recommendations.

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Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Visit www.ccrjustice.org and follow @theCCR.

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