Officers of the New York Police Department want bodycam footage to be kept private.
According to Law and Crime, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) — the largest police union in New York City — is suing Mayor Bill De Blasio to put a halt to the release of all bodycam footage captured by members of the department.
In a 30-page petition, the union claims that making the footage available to the public is a violation of the officers’ civil rights. The document reportedly cites three particular instances of body camera footage releases that they consider to be in violation of the law.
The suit reads: “Civil Rights Law § 50-a prohibits Respondents from releasing ‘records used to evaluate [a police officer’s] performance toward continued employment or promotion’ that are ‘under the control of any police agency,’ unless they have secured a Court ordered [sic] permitting them to do so.”
The president of PBA, Patrick Lynch, released his own statement criticizing the release of the footage.
“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,” Lynch wrote. “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.”
If the “interests” Lynch mentions refers to more transparency then, by all means, the department and the mayor should continue serving said interests.
Austin Finan, a spokesperson for De Blasio, responded to the pending lawsuit.
“The mayor and the police commissioner have spoken to the need for increasing transparency into the way our city is policed,” he said. “The release of body camera footage, when possible, is an important extension of that commitment.”
It should be noted that bodycam footage has been used to expose police brutality, planted evidence, and other instances of misconduct. On the other hand, it has also been used to highlight officers' heroic acts.
Bodycam footage is not strictly used as a record to evaluate an officer's performance; it is also a crucial part of the checks and balances system that needs to be in place to hold officers accountable for how they conduct themselves in the field.
If you are doing your job with integrity, there should be no issue with the public having access to your bodycam footage.