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

Bodyworn CameraBack in August, Federal District Court Judge
Shira Scheindlin
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


“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,
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
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

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.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/11/12/if-nyc-police-are-worried-about-new-crim

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