If NYC Police Are Worried About New Crime Wave They Should All Wear Video Cameras

Bodyworn CameraTaserBack in August, Federal District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the New York City Police Department's (NYPD) pervasive stop-and-frisk tactics violated the constitutional rights of citizens to be unmolested by the authorities. In addition, Judge Scheindlin ordered...

...the NYPD to institute a pilot project in which bodyworn cameras will be worn for a one-year period by officers on patrol in one precinct per borough -- specifically the precinct with the highest number of stops during 2012.

The outgoing Bloomberg administration has now successfully sued to have the judge thrown off the case and her orders have been put on hold.  In addition, Peter Vallone, the city council's biggest booster of aggressive policing tactics is now worried that two new ordinances will dampened police crime fighting efforts leading to a new crime wave in the Big Apple. As Capital New York reports:

“We are in for what I've been warning about, and we're already seeing it," Vallone said, sitting in a cafe on Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria. "There's going to be a major crime increase."

Vallone, whose positions on policing put him far to the right of most of his fellow Democrats on the Council, was referring to what he believes will be the effects of two new laws increasing oversight of the NYPD which passed with the vocal backing of New York City's next mayor. 

One law creates an inspector general to oversee police policy and a second facilitates lawsuits against the department, in certain circumstances, for allegations of bias.

Critics warn that lawsuits against the police are going to proliferate and cost the city millions. Well, actually as Bloomberg News has reported, settling lawsuits against the NYPD for abuse already cost the city $735 million in 2012.

Fortunately, as Judge Scheindlin noted in her order, there is a hi-tech solution to the many of these problems: require cops to wear video cameras on the job. As I reported in my column, "Watched Cops Are Polite Cops," requiring police officers to wear cameras is a win/win for both police and citizens:

Earlier this year, a 12-month study by Cambridge University researchers revealed that when the city of Rialto, California, required its cops to wear cameras, the number of complaints filed against officers fell by 88 percent and the use of force by officers dropped by almost 60 percent.

Just this week, the Washington Post reported similar results in the city of Laurel, MD:

The city started using the device six months ago. Since then, Chief Rich McLaughlin says, complaints against officers have gone down and so has the use of police force.

“It keeps everybody in check, on both sides,” he said....

When they were first told they had to film every encounter, some officers in Laurel were not thrilled, McLaughlin said. But now they come to him asking for the cameras. He just ordered a new batch, and now nearly all 70 officers have them.

Officers from nearby cities “ask, ‘Oh, how do you like Big Brother?’” said Officer Matt Jordan. “But I don’t have a problem with it. I like it.”

The camera helped clear him after a citizen complaint, Jordan said. Once, it defused a confrontation outside a bar: “As soon as they saw the cameras, they left.” In court cases, they’ve been used to secure a drug-related guilty plea and prove that an officer was shoved....

The American Civil Liberties Union, which generally is wary of surveillance, recently expressed support for the cameras. But the organization acknowledges the privacy concerns of the police and the public, and its support comes with conditions.

“I absolutely know this tool will transform policing,” Scott Greenwood, a police accountability attorney and general counsel for the ACLU, said in an interview. “It’s an unalloyed good, provided that policies are in place that mandate the use of devices rather than leaving it up to the discretion of the officers.”

With proper rules governing the release and retention of video, I concluded:

It gives citizens better protection against police misconduct and against violations of their constitutional rights. And it protects good cops against unfair accusations, too. Requiring police to wear video cameras should be universally adopted sooner rather than later.

Anyone worried about a "crime wave" should be advocating the adoption of this sensible policy.

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  • John||

    Everyone behaves better when they know their actions are on camera and thus will be available for later viewing.

  • Rich||

    You know who else advocated a "polite society"?

  • Anomalous||

    Miss Manners?

  • ||

    settling lawsuits against the NYPD for abuse already cost the city $735 million in 2012

    Three quarters of a billion dollars for police abuse lawsuits alone? Holy shit. How can the mayor and city council not be screaming at the police commissioner just about this expenditure alone?

  • playa manhattan||

    "The cost of claims is forecast to rise to $815 million by 2016, more than the city pays to run the Parks and Recreation Department,..."

    They are aware of it, and evidently expect misconduct to increase. TOP MEN

  • WTF||

    How can the mayor and city council not be screaming at the police commissioner just about this expenditure alone?

    Fuck it, it's not their money.

  • ||

    No, but it's money the politicians could be using to pay off cronies or build monuments to themselves or to buy off voters who want free shit. This is serious money, and it's instead being spent on letting NYPD officers abuse people?

  • R C Dean||

    it's money the politicians could be using to pay off cronies

    It is being used for payoffs. This is the blood money that keeps the cop unions onside.

  • Acosmist||

    They ARE paying people off with this. New Yorkers don't want icky minorities in their city, and Bloomberg did his best to make sure it wasn't a pleasant place for minorities to live. A billion? Worth it.

  • Brett L||

    Probably don't want to be shot in the back by their NYPD bodyguards.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Technically, it's the actions (or perceived actions) of police abuse that are costing the city.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "Vallone, whose positions on policing put him far to the right of most of his fellow Democrats on the Council"

    That doesn't tell me much. Being the most right-wing member of the NY City Council is like having the longest male organ in Lilliput.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    In true Boss Tweed style, a $100 camera will be selected and the city will pay $1000 per device. The distributor will be required to have an office in the city at the time the contract is let.

  • The Rt. Hon. Serious Man, Visc||

  • JD the elder||

    “We are in for what I've been warning about, and we're already seeing it," Vallone said, sitting in a cafe on Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria. "There's going to be a major crime increase."

    Yes, we're already seeing it because street criminals are well-known for keeping up on legal news; they were sitting around reading the Wall Street Journal over coffee when one said, "I say, Basil, look at this: Judge Scheindlin has come down against the NYPD. In light of this, I think today would be an especially fine day to go mugging, considering that by the time our case comes to court, the new rules shall surely be in effect."

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "I say, Basil"

    Taxed into poverty by England's Socialist government, three English aristocrats move to New York to recover their fortune, only to be impoverished again by the socialist government in that city.

    Now they're pissed, and they're going on a crime spree such as Gotham has never seen before, as Basil, Nigel and Roger rob and rape their way through the city.

  • The Last American Hero||

    I heard Roger is just rogering is way through the city.

  • creech||

    OTOH, while videos are likely to cut down on improper police actions, won't they also show juries just how out of control and vulgar some arrestees are, thus leading to even more guilty verdicts? Maybe a win-win all around.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I suspect jurors aren't hermits. They see bad behavior on TV (what TV show *doesn't* have bad behavior) and on the streets, and they hear cops go on about the antisocial activities of the alleged perp.

  • Frodo Teabaggins||

    This is exactly right. It's nice if this stops police brutality and abuse, of course, but cops should LOVE this because in most cases it will protect them from false allegations and show just how crazy some (most?) defendants are.

  • creech||

    Yes, the jury now gets to see defendant Chip in his preppy blazer and tie in court defended by Daddy's high priced lawyer and hear what a great student he is, etc. etc. Soon they'll be able to see drunken Chip failing his arms, smashing things, and spewing mofo, etc. at the cops. Wouldn't want to be Chip.

  • Acosmist||

    Yes, because that's exactly the defendant demo.

  • Jquip||

    Put that differently. If the cops, commissioners, prosecutors, and city councils, are honest and want an honest force? Yep, more love than the back seat of a Camaro in West Virginia.

    But they HATE it with an unholy passion. And that tells you everything to know about what they all are, and some good clues about what they're doing.

  • Slammer||

    I can foresee lots of "reality" TV shows running clip after clip of footage in the cops favor making defendants look like dirtbags.

  • Paul.||

    OTOH, while videos are likely to cut down on improper police actions,

    Will it? We've got video of cops shooting unarmed people in the back as they lay prostrate upon the ground, while the DA shoe-gazes and mumbles something about the video not showing how complicated the real situaion was so... no charges will be filed 'n stuff.

  • The Last American Hero||

    When the volume of these cases becomes known to people other than those who've read Balko's blog, there will be significant pressure on the DA's to get to work.

  • Rod Flash||

    mmmkay

  • Paul.||

    The outgoing Bloomberg administration has now successfully sued to have the judge thrown off the case and her orders have been put on hold.

    Yeah! Libertopia!

  • jasno||

    I'm a little worried that fluctuations in the crime rate due to other factors(like youth disenfranchisement due to the economy) will make these jerks' predictions come to pass. I haven't seen any official data but, based on the crime alert emails I receive from my local police, property crimes are way, way up in the last 6 months.

  • R C Dean||

    based on the crime alert emails I receive from my local police, property crimes are way, way up in the last 6 months.

    I suspect those stats are driven more by budget politics than any sort of reality.

  • DWC||

    "Crime" now, there's a word.

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