Put cameras on cops to improve policing

An NYPD patrol car.

An NYPD patrol car. Photo Credit: iStock

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New Yorkers who think the NYPD doesn't urgently need to fix its arrest procedures should take a hard look at the excruciating video that went viral this past weekend.

The scene it depicts is painful to watch.

Published reports say the takedown went like this:

Police get a domestic-disturbance call on July 13 to a Brownsville apartment building. The caller doesn't give an apartment number, but when cops go inside, they hear shouting in the apartment of Denise Stewart, 48. They knock on her door. Someone inside says they have the wrong apartment. Then the video footage starts:

Stewart had been in the shower. We see cops dragging her into the hallway. She's asthmatic, people tell the cops. Her bare chest is covered by a towel, which comes off in the scuffle. She's not wearing pants -- just her underwear. Stewart sits cuffed in the hallway as minutes tick by.

The city's Administration for Children's Services says that it's investigating what may -- or may not -- have been happening inside the Stewart home. The agency does not discuss ongoing investigations.

But the NYPD plainly owes New Yorkers an explanation for its actions. What we saw on the video was NYPD cops dragging a half-naked woman out of her home and humiliating her in front of neighbors.

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After the Staten Island chokehold death of Eric Garner last month, some advocates renewed their call for NYPD video recordings of all sensitive police operations. Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin suggested as much last year when she ordered the NYPD to clean up the way it handles stop-and-frisk operations. Cops could wear the cameras and mount them on the dashboards of their cars.

It's a good idea -- and it should happen quickly. We know about the Garner and Stewart cases for one major reason: Bystanders were on hand to push the record button. But routine NYPD footage would serve an even higher purpose. It would tighten restraints on cowboy cops. It would reveal errant officers. But best of all, it would highlight the vast majority who perform well under pressure.

They would win. The citizens of New York would win.


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