Cop vid views skew NYPD reports, group says
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.