Scorecard Evaluates Civil Rights Safeguards for NYPD’s Proposed Body Camera Program
WASHINGTON – Today The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Upturn released an updated scorecard evaluating the civil rights safeguards of the New York Police Department’s new, proposed body worn camera policy. The scorecard uses eight criteria derived from the Civil Rights Principles on Body Worn Cameras signed by a broad coalition of civil rights, privacy, and media rights groups in May 2015.
The NYPD and the Policing Project at New York University School of Law are accepting public input on a proposed new policy governing the use of body worn cameras until Sunday, August 7. The Police Body Worn Camera Scorecard is an important resource for New Yorkers submitting comments on whether the proposal protects their civil rights and privacy.
The Leadership Conference and Upturn scored the NYPD’s body camera policy proposal on the following eight criteria:
● Is the policy publicly available on the NYPD’s own website?
o No. While the proposed policy is available on the NYU Policing Project’s web site, it is nowhere to be found on the NYPD’s own site.
● Policies should be specific about when officers must record, and officers should need to explain their actions if they stop recording prematurely or fail to record when required. Does the policy limit officer discretion on when to record?
o Yes. The proposed policy lists a specific set of situations when police must record and requires officers to justify their actions when they fail to follow those guidelines.
● Policies should provide extra privacy protection for vulnerable individuals, like victims of sex crimes. Does the proposed policy address personal privacy concerns?
o Yes. The policy prohibits officers from recording certain vulnerable individuals, as well as anyone engaged in First Amendment activity. It also allows victims and witnesses to opt out of recording in non-confrontational situations.
● Officers should be required to complete their written reports prior to viewing footage, because viewing footage can skew officers’ recollection of events. Does the proposed policy prohibit officer pre-report viewing?
o No. Officers may always view footage of incidents before making any official statement, even in incidents when the officer used deadly force.
● Footage not connected with active cases or police misconduct complaints should be promptly deleted to protect the privacy of innocent individuals captured by body cameras. Does the proposed policy limit the retention of footage?
o No. The proposed policy allows the Risk Management Bureau to delete video “if appropriate.” However it does not specify a maximum retention period for routine, inconsequential footage.
● Policies should explicitly prohibit officers from tampering with or deleting footage. They should also prohibit unauthorized access to footage, and maintain a log of who accesses footage and for what reasons. Does the proposed policy protect footage against tampering and misuse?
o Yes. The policy expressly prohibits footage tampering and unauthorized sharing of footage, and indicates that all access to recorded footage will be monitored by the BWC audit system.
● Individuals alleging police misconduct should always be able to view relevant footage during the complaint process. Does the proposed policy ensure that footage is available to individuals filing complaints?
o No. The proposed policy does not provide complainants with a special process to access relevant footage.
● Facial recognition technology, if used in conjunction with body worn cameras, would raise significant surveillance concerns, and the use of these technologies should be sharply limited. Does the proposed policy limit the use of biometric technologies?
o No. The proposal does not place any limits on the use of biometric technologies, like facial recognition.
“As the NYPD prepares to equip its officers with body cameras, it is imperative to recognize that cameras are just a tool—not a substitute—for broader reforms of policing practices. Without carefully crafted policy safeguards, these devices could become instruments of injustice, rather than tools of accountability,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “We hope that New Yorkers use our scorecard as a reference when submitting comments to ensure that the NYPD develops body camera policies that promote accountability and protect the rights of those being recorded.”
“Body cameras carry the promise of officer accountability, but accountability is far from automatic,” said Harlan Yu, principal at Upturn. “The current NYPD policy completely fails on a number of key criteria on our policy scorecard, which calls into question whether cameras in the city will actually live up to that promise.”
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its 200-plus member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.