In response to news Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Justice has awarded Syracuse a $59,000 grant for the police department to acquire body cameras to initiate a pilot program, the New York Civil Liberties Union issued the following statement attributable to NYCLU Central New York Chapter Director Yusuf Abdul Qadir.

“Body cameras can be a critical tool for holding police officers accountable for misconduct at a time when police accountability is needed in Syracuse more than ever. Longstanding mistrust between communities of color and police reached new heights this summer after the fatal police shooting of Gary Porter on Father’s Day.

“But to build public trust, the Syracuse Police Department needs to get its body camera policies right. Policies should require that officers keep cameras recording during all law enforcement encounters, including stops, arrests and uses of force. Officers should not be allowed to check recordings in order to get their official statements straight. The policies should include a clear and simple way for the public to review footage without unreasonable costs or red tape. Officers must also guard against invasions of privacy by notifying people they are being recorded and letting them decline unless there is a safety emergency. Finally, body camera footage should generally be kept for six months, while footage containing officer uses of force should be kept for three years.

“With the right accountability and privacy checks in place, body cameras can usher in pressing reforms and increase the safety of people and police in Syracuse.”