NYPD should focus in on body cams

An NYPD patrol car. An NYPD patrol car. Photo Credit: iStock

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The NYPD should demand that the thousands of cops it dispatches daily to keep New Yorkers safe wear body cameras.

The reasons why are overwhelming.

Body cams on patrol cops would inject a powerful new element of accountability and transparency into the city's conversation between officers and minority residents -- a dialogue that can be ugly and fractious and debilitating.

The cameras would give New Yorkers with legitimate grievances against the NYPD a decisive way to prove their claims. For example, says Public Advocate Letitia James, the Civilian Complaint Review Board last year fielded 233 claims that cops had used long-banned chokeholds against New Yorkers. But in the absence of a strong, impartial record, fewer than 5 percent of these claims were validated. Cop cams could tilt the scales toward fairness.

And body cams might also make life better for cops who -- through no fault of their own -- find themselves in situations where force is necessary. Footage of what went down could exonerate an officer in a controversial shooting who -- as it turns out -- used force for self-protection. Clear documentation could defuse an incident and present the public with the realities of policing in our city. The NYPD is right to order officers not to use their personal smartphones to photograph encounters with the public. Unless the camera is pinned to a lapel or collar, the photography could easily be a distraction.

That could put an officer's life in danger.

Any video from the police perspective should be an official record of NYPD encounters -- that means a standardized process, not a haphazard process dictated by events.

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Strangely, while some cops may want to use videography for protection, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association has denounced official body cams.

The PBA calls the extra equipment a safety problem. They're wrong.

Body cams will protect everyone on the streets. The city is considering a plan for the NYPD -- and it's time to hit fast forward.

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