Defending New Yorkers' right to be free from discriminatory and abusive policing is a core component of the NYCLU’s mission. In this role, we have advocated for the establishment of civilian complaint and officer discipline mechanisms that are accessible, transparent, and effective in holding police accountable for their actions. We have worked to ensure police department policies and data about police activities are publicly available. In representing individual clients, we have experienced firsthand how difficult it is to achieve accountability for officer misconduct, particularly in cases where the only evidence is one person’s word against an officer’s. And we have offered cautious support for the use of police body-worn cameras as a means of producing objective video evidence of officers’ actions during police encounters.

With the right policies in place governing their use, police body-worn cameras can be a powerful tool of transparency and accountability. But without clear commitments to those principles, body-worn cameras become just another tool for police surveillance and another shield for departments to use to protect abusive officers from public scrutiny.

The NYPD has yet to demonstrate a truly sincere commitment to using body cameras as a tool for repairing relationships with communities. 

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