In 2019, a New York appellate court ruled in favor of public access to body-worn camera (BWC) footage, deciding that the recorded material “is not a personnel record covered by the confidentiality and disclosure requirements of [NY Civil Rights Law] § 50-a. The purpose of body-worn-camera footage is for use in the service of other key objectives … such as transparency, accountability, and public trust-building.”
The police commissioner of the New York Police Department (NYPD) supported the ruling, saying it was an important step forward for promoting transparency and affirming the department’s beliefs. Not only is the public entitled to the information but the footage overwhelmingly shows how brave, skilled, and dedicated the agency’s officers are in serving their community.
In April 2017, the NYPD began equipping all its police officers, detectives, sergeants, and lieutenants regularly assigned to patrol duties with BWCs. Within two years, all officers in specialized units who performed patrol-oriented or support functions and executive officers responsible for leading commands were also equipped with cameras. The program began to fill a void in the burgeoning field of BWC policies, now being implemented in police departments nationwide.