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De Blasio announces effort to speed up release of NYPD bodycam footage

Bystanders at the scene in Brooklyn June 2

Bystanders at the scene in Brooklyn June 2 where NYPD officers fatally shot a man in an incident department officials said was captured on police body cameras.   Credit: AP/Jim Mustian

In another effort to increase NYPD transparency, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday announced a program to speed up the release of police body camera recordings in certain cases involving death, wounding or serious injury.

Under the new rules, which take effect immediately, all video and audio footage must be released when an officer uses a firearm or Taser that results in death or substantial bodily injury. Previously, the NYPD released such recordings at its discretion. 

The police commission and the victim's family would first be allowed the review the footage, which would then be released to the public online, according to the new rules.

In a statement, de Blasio said releasing camera footage quicker was part of a commitment he made in his first mayoral campaign promising fundamental changes to policing in the city.

“Historic wounds run deep and we know much work lies ahead, but we won’t give up,” de Blasio said. “This is another step in the right direction and we are not stopping here.”

The body camera rules also apply to cases where an officer’s use of force results in death or “great bodily harm.”

Some 22,000 NYPD patrol officers have been equipped with body cameras since early 2019. Officials said hundreds of thousands of interactions between cops and the public are recorded every year.

It remained unclear Tuesday how many body camera recordings would be released. In recent years, cops have been involved on average in about 10 “adversarial” encounters a year which result in a suspect being shot and killed. Regarding Tasers, the new rules only apply when use of the device leads to death or substantial bodily harm, de Blasio said. He did not say what would be considered substantial bodily harm. 

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said in a statement that the new policy is in line with a reform agenda the department has pursued for the last six years.

“All officers are now equipped with body-worn cameras, which provide a record of encounters between our officers and the New Yorkers we serve,” Shea said 

A spokesman for the Police Benevolent Association said the organization had no comment on the new rules.

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