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NYPD body camera test delayed until 2017, court monitor says

NYPD Officer Joshua Jones demonstrates how to use

NYPD Officer Joshua Jones demonstrates how to use and operate a body camera during a news conference Dec. 3, 2014 in Manhattan. Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton

New York City is taking longer than expected to purchase body cameras for an experimental NYPD program, mainly because of the rigors of the procurement process, a special court monitor said Tuesday.

Since it will take more time to work out a deal for the cameras, the NYPD will probably not begin the experiment — in which 1,000 cops in 20 precincts will wear the devices — until well into 2017, said attorney Peter L. Zimroth, the former city corporation counsel who was appointed monitor by a federal judge after the 2014 settlement of a controversial lawsuit against police stop-and-frisk tactics.

As part of the lawsuit settlement, the city agreed to conduct experiments to determine the feasibility of outfitting officers with body cameras as a way of remedying mistrust between the NYPD and the public, as well as helping to resolve the validity of complaints about police misconduct, Zimroth said.

Under the plan worked out with the approval of Manhattan federal judge Analisa Torres, the NYPD will outfit about 1,000 cops with cameras while it monitors a control group of 1,000 officers without the devices.

“The [body-worn camera] procurement process is taking longer than the NYPD initially anticipated,” Zimroth said in a letter filed with Torres on Tuesday. “The department currently foresees choosing a vendor in mid-to-late August 2016. It then estimates an additional four to six months before a contract is officially registered.”

“Once a contract is in place, delivery will not be instant, as the vendor will have to prepare and deliver cameras and software to meet NYPD specifications,” Zimroth said.

Zimroth’s letter contained an explanation from the city about the complexity of procuring cameras, noting many companies have jumped into the arena to provide the service to meet the needs of numerous police departments. The number of vendors and the issues surrounding the use of cameras, notably data storage, made for more lengthy reviews of proposals. Because the NYPD intends the contract for cameras to run for several years, the department will consider future needs in its evaluation, officials said.

Further complicating the purchase of cameras is that the city procurement process involves at least seven agencies and requires public hearings on the intended contract award, officials said.

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