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Push for police body cameras in Nassau after death of suspect in Minneapolis

Suffolk County Police Chief Stuart Cameron shows a

Suffolk County Police Chief Stuart Cameron shows a new body camera at Suffolk police headquarters in Yaphank on July 5, 2017. Credit: James Carbone

Nassau County Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) announced a renewed push to outfit county police officers with body cameras, citing the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by a police officer.

In a letter to Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Bynoe said establishment and implementation of a body camera program should be part of contract discussions between the county and its law enforcement unions. The labor agreements expired at the end of 2017.

In May 2015, then-Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, and then-acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter, proposed the purchase of body cameras for 31 officers who patrolled the communities of Baldwin, Elmont, Great Neck, New Cassel, Roosevelt, Uniondale and Westbury. Funding for the program was authorized in 2014 in a bipartisan budget deal.

But in November 2015, the state Employment Relations Labor Board placed a 90-day moratorium on the program. In a complaint to the board, the Nassau Police Benevolent Association and the Superior Officers Association said the county had failed to include the unions in conversations about the rollout of the camera program, which never went forward.

In her letter to Curran, Bynoe said "video recording establishes an objective factual record that has become widely accepted as an essential tool in accurately evaluating" encounters between police and the public.

"The collective bargaining process presents the best chance to bring law enforcement on board as a willing partner in this initiative and to remove the final obstacle to adopting this indispensable technology in Nassau County," Bynoe wrote.

James McDermott, Nassau PBA president, backed inclusion of the camera issue in contract negotiations.

"That's exactly where it should be," McDermott said. "It's a mandatory subject of bargaining. And we're willing to talk and listen." 

A bystander's video of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes on May 25, has prompted outrage across the nation and around the world. Other officers at the scene did not assist Floyd, who is black, as he pleaded for help. Floyd died at 9:25 p.m. at Hennepin County Medical Center.

Authorities arrested  Chauvin on Friday and charged him with murder in connection with Floyd's death.

Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said in a statement, "I look forward to working with the County and the Unions in the future with regard to Body Camera’s. The Nassau County Police Department enjoys excellent relationships with our community members and has an extremely low rate of complaints against its police Officers."

Michael Fricchione, a Curran spokesman, said the administration was "in favor of exploring any tool that will increase in transparency and safety. Body cameras are proven to be valuable devices that can help promote and engage community trust. Our administration is committed to exploring all options that can help build community relations.”

Legis. Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park), leader of the Republican-controlled county legislature, said his caucus "remains committed to the safety of the public and the men and women of law enforcement. Accordingly, we will seek opportunities to work with the community, our police unions and the Police Commissioner, to explore new ways in which to enhance safety for everyone in Nassau County.” 

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