Cop vid views skew NYPD re­ports, group says

New York Daily News - - NEWS - BY GRA­HAM RAY­MAN

A CIVIL RIGHTS group raised ques­tions Tues­day about the NYPD prac­tice of al­low­ing po­lice to watch their body cam­era footage be­fore they write in­ci­dent re­ports.

The prac­tice could un­der­mine the in­de­pen­dent value of the re­ports and dis­tort the of­fi­cer’s mem­ory of what hap­pened, ac­cord­ing to the Lead­er­ship Con­fer­ence on Civil and Hu­man Rights.

A score­card the group re­leased Tues­day on body cam­era pro­grams in 75 U.S. ci­ties found most of the de­part­ments al­low the re­view prac­tice, though some places im­pose lim­its.

“De­part­ments rarely limit when of­fi­cers can re­view footage, and most al­low it when writ­ing re­ports,” said the group’s se­nior coun­sel, Sakira Cook.

“Cam­era use can be mis­lead­ing, and the of­fi­cers can con­form their re­port to what the video ap­pears to show, not what the of­fi­cer re­mem­bers.”

In the re­port, the group cites the case of Der­rick Price, who was ar­rested in Au­gust 2014 in Florida.

The body cam­era footage ap­peared to cap­ture Price strug­gling with po­lice as of­fi­cers shouted, “Stop re­sist­ing!”

The of­fi­cers viewed that footage and then wrote in their re­ports that he had re­sisted ar­rest.

How­ever, a build­ing se­cu­rity cam­era showed Price did not re­sist at all dur­ing the in­ci­dent. He sim­ply puts his hands up and lies down on the ground.

That’s when Mar­ion County deputies ran up and started punch­ing and kick­ing him. Four deputies were in­dicted and pleaded guilty to fed­eral civil rights vi­o­la­tions.

“Be­cause watch­ing body-worn cam­era footage can al­ter an of­fi­cer’s mem­ory of an event, do­ing so will likely taint what of­fi­cers write in their re­ports,” the group con­cluded. “This prac­tice will make it more dif­fi­cult for in­ves­ti­ga­tors, in­ter­nal af­fairs and courts to ac­cu­rately as­sess what oc­curred.”

The group also ques­tioned why the NYPD and many other de­part­ments don’t make it easy for cit­i­zens to view footage.

The depart­ment’s cur­rent pol­icy is to re­quire a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Law re­quest. It’s un­clear how many peo­ple have asked, and what the NYPD has re­leased.

The depart­ment did re­lease body cam video af­ter of­fi­cers shot and killed a men­tally dis­turbed man armed with a knife and a toy gun in the Bronx in Septem­ber.

That footage tended to sup­port the of­fi­cers’ ac­counts that the man lunged at them af­ter they re­peat­edly pleaded with him to drop the knife.

It is un­clear what the NYPD will do when the footage is less fa­vor­able.

The civil and hu­man rights group also ques­tioned the NYPD’s de­ci­sion to hold on to body cam­era footage not rel­e­vant to a crime or lit­i­ga­tion for a year. They would pre­fer the video be de­stroyed in less than six months.

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