Current Policy Will Undermine Accountability
April 20, 2017, New York – Last night, civil rights attorneys challenged an NYPD policy approved last week by the monitor overseeing reforms to the NYPD’s stop and frisk practices that will govern a year-long police body camera pilot program. The camera pilot was ordered by a federal judge in Floyd v. City of New York,the landmark, class action case that found the NYPD’s stop and frisk practices unconstitutional. But the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which represents the plaintiffs, together with the legal team in a related case, Davis v. City of New York, argued that the details of the policy as approved by the monitor turn the cameras from an accountability tool into a tool for surveilling and criminalizing New Yorkers.
“The court ordered the body cameras to address constitutional violations by NYPD officers, not to provide an additional tool for police to investigate and charge New Yorkers,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Staff Attorney Darius Charney. “The pilot policy approved by the monitor turns this purpose on its head. The importance of community input and judicial review of police practices and reforms cannot be overstated here.”
Though the court conceived of the cameras as a potential tool to address constitutional harms by officers, the policy issued by the monitor describes the camera’s purposes as, among others, to “provide evidence for criminal prosecutions.” Further, the policy allows many street encounters to go unrecorded, does not clearly require officers to notify members of the public that they are being recorded, and allows officers to view their own and other officers’ recordings before making statements or writing reports. In the court-ordered Joint Remedial Process designed to solicit stakeholder input into the reforms as well as an NYPD survey last summer in which 25,000 people participated, New Yorkers raised concerns about these elements of the proposed body camera policy, but they were ignored.
CCR has also objected to what Charney described as the monitor’s attempt to avoid court oversight of the body camera program by claiming to the court that the body camera policy that will govern the pilot program is not subject to court review. CCR urged the court to halt implementation of the program, scheduled begin shortly, until the issues CCR has raised about the policy have been resolved.
The Center for Constitutional Rights joined Communities United for Police Reform at a press conference this afternoon. Communities United for Police Reform, and Upturn and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights submitted letters to the court in opposition to the policy, as well.
In August 2013, CCR and co-counsel won a landmark ruling that found the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices to be racially discriminatory and unconstitutional under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. The court ordered immediate reforms and appointed a monitor to oversee additional reforms, including a joint remedial process that is intended to solicit substantive input from directly-affected communities as well as other stakeholders.
Read the letter submitted last night here.
For more information on Floyd, visit CCR’s case page.
Beldock Levine and Hoffman LLP, Covington & Burling LLP, and Demos are co-counsel in the case.