NYC Police Union Argues Releasing Body Cam Footage Violates Cops' Civil Rights

Suing to prevent such releases.


NY Post / Splash News/Newscom

New York City's largest police union, the Patrolman's Benevolent Association, is suing Mayor Bill de Blasio, Police Commissioner James O'Neill, and the New York Police Department (NYPD) to block the release of body cam footage, arguing that it violates their members' civil rights.

The union points to a New York statute, Civil Rights Law Section 50-a, that declares "all personnel records used to evaluate performance toward continued employment or promotion" must be "confidential and not subject to inspection or review," permitting their release only with the consent of the police officer or a court order. According to the union, body camera footage should be considered such personnel records.

The provision is one of those laws that create an environment that privileges the sustained employment of police officers over any kind of substantive accountability or transparency.

New York passed Section 50-a in 1976 "to prevent criminal defense lawyers from using 'unsubstantiated and irrelevant' allegations to undermine officers' credibility in criminal cases," Yale Law's Case Disclosed explains. Since then, "New York courts have systematically expanded the coverage of the provision." Lawyers for the city have happily exploited this expansion, arguing that grievances filed by city inmates, transcripts of open disciplinary hearings, and reports about shootings should all be considered "personnel records."

"This footage has serious implications not only for the safety and due process rights of police officers, but for the privacy and rights of members of the public, as well," union chief Patrick Lynch said in a statement. "The mayor and the NYPD have shown a reckless disregard for these concerns by circumventing the existing process set up by the State Legislature and selectively releasing portions of videos to suit their own interests."

It's important to remember: The release of body camera footage alone is not sufficient to guarantee any change or improvement. It's a modicum of transparency that can help generate the kind of pressure than can break through the powerful status quo maintained by the police union and its confederates in government. And apparently it's too much for Lynch.

NEXT: Aziz Ansari and the Limits of 'He Should Know Better'

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  1. Those cops work for the taxpayers; your boss wants to see what you’re doing, officer.

  2. “This footage has serious implications not only for the safety and due process rights of police officers, but for the privacy and rights of members of the public, as well,” union chief Patrick Lynch said in a statement.

    I wonder which of these outrages weighed more heavily in their objection.

  3. No problem.
    Do not use the body camera footage for personnel determinations. Use the guilty verdicts from the trials where the footage is admitted into evidence.
    Next issue?

    1. As if there’d ever be guilty verdicts.

  4. …arguing that it violates their members’ civil rights.

    Government doesn’t have rights, only the limited powers granted them by the constitution (people).

    While acting in the capacity of a LEO, you are the government, meaning you have no rights, only limited powers, until you punch out for the day. While you are doing the job I pay you to do, protecting my rights, I have every right to see what you do all day.

    Fuck off, slavers!

    1. While you are doing the job I pay you to do, violating my rights, I have every right to see what you do all day.


  5. But murdering unarmed people when the officer kind of felt that there might have been a danger doesn’t violate anyone’s civil rights.

    1. They all have the right to remain silent and the officers are making them silent.

  6. OT: Due to a lack of good blogs and forums and such I went ahead and broke down and installed the Reddit app. I searched around and subscribed to some subreddits and such, made a few comments. It didn’t take long for me to realize how much reddit sucks. It’s not for discussion. Its whole purpose seems to be having safe spaces for people who think alike to have a circlejerk. On my second comment within The Donald subreddit I was banned. There was a post about how the desperate US military is, how it’s scraping by and running on fumes, so I commented that this was ridiculous and the military gets all the money it ever asks for and usually more. That’s all it took. Banned. I made ONE comment in some socialist subreddit, banned. What a ridiculous website reddit is.

    1. I made ONE comment in some socialist subreddit, banned.

      I thought you said it was your second comment that got you banned.

      1. Ah. ANOTHER socialist subreddit.

  7. Unfortunately, they might be on to something with the argument that the body cam constitutes a personnel record if you realize that the body cam was sold to the cops as a way to evaluate and train them (and incidentally protect them from false accusations of misbehavior). We all know the real purpose is to protect the public from dirty cops being dirty but that’s not how you get the cops on board, so “training” it is. Of course, the cops are going to insist anything that is used to evaluate them is ipso facto a personnel record, even that surveillance video of them raping little puppies.

  8. It’s sort of cute how the cops are able to mimic what they hear and try to use it. They hear the slimy lawyer for some scumbag who managed to survive a good skullcracking say something about ‘civil rights’ and then he gets off with a big fat settlement. So the cops figure they can get a big payday if they say ‘civil rights’ too.

    1. Oh, you think it won’t work?

  9. The PBA just wants fairness. If the video exonerates the cop they want it released, if it incriminates them they want it withheld. See, fairness.

  10. If you’re not doing anything wrong, you’ve got nothing to be afraid of. Or so I hear.

  11. No surprise. See the Volokh Conspiracy article The Effects of Collective Bargaining in the Public Sector. Public sector unions should be outlawed.

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