Today the New York City Police Department announced the release of its proposed police officer body-worn camera (BWC) procedure.

The language of the proposed procedure ensures officers participating in the body-worn camera pilot program capture objective records of encounters, while encouraging lawful and respectful interactions between the public and the police. This updated procedure has been submitted to Peter Zimroth, the NYPD federal monitor, for his review and approval.

The body-worn camera procedure is the culmination of a yearlong negotiation involving the NYPD Inspector General, NYC’s respective District Attorneys, members of the New York City Council, Public Advocate, New York Civil Liberties Union, Civilian Complaint Review Board, Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, Citizens Crime Commission, and more.

Significant provisions of the policy cover when and under what circumstances cameras should activated, how footage can be viewed, retention of footage, and the release of footage to the public:

  • Activation of cameras: Mandatory activation during all enforcement and investigative encounters. Mandatory deactivation during interactions with confidential informants or sex crime victims, as well as internal meetings and training.
  • Viewing of footage: An officer may view his or her own, and other officers’ BWC footage in the furtherance of official duties (arrest processing, etc.). During an official department investigation, including serious injury or death of a person, or an officer firearms discharge, the officer concerned may view his or her own BWC recordings at a time deemed appropriate by the supervisor in charge of the investigation before being required a compelled statement.
  • Retention of footage: Body camera footage will be retained for one year (and can be retained longer on a case by case basis).
  • Release of footage: The procedure will also cover how and when footage is released to prosecutors, during litigation, and to the public.

Training: Officers participating in the BWC rollout will be given a customized one-day training course at the NYPD Police Academy in Queens. The curriculum will include an overview of the program, a review of BWC videos, participation in role-play scenarios, and a workshop explaining the video management software. Beyond this initial training, each participating precinct’s training sergeant will oversee a 90-day field-training period at the precinct—in conjunction with the Risk Management Bureau and the Information Technology Bureau.

Feedback from officers who participated in the initial BWC pilot program has been positive. Officers noted members of the public were receptive to the BWC and that footage from the cameras proved helpful with police investigations, and with allegations of misconduct. In the report being released today, the Department responds to that input, explaining its reasoning in reaching important policy decisions.

The Department in formulating its procedure reviewed the policies of 50 other departments across the country. Based on the Department’s research and the accompanying feedback, the NYPD made several modifications to the initial BWC procedure, including:

  • Instructions to officers about giving notice to individuals being recorded (including reasonable exceptions)
  • Lifting a previous ban on recording at demonstrations
  • Increasing of the retention period for untagged footage from six months to a year.
  • Guidance about where a BWC should be worn