Police body camera footage, sometimes a key piece in figuring out what happened in police-involved shootings, can be shown to the public, a New York State appeals panel ruled on Tuesday.
New York City Councilman Donovan Richards, a Democrat from Queens who heads the council’s Public Safety Committee, praised the ruling by the mid-level appeals court, reports the New York Daily News. Richards said body camera footage brings greater transparency and helps “reveal patterns of misconduct.”
NYPD Police Commissioner James O’Neill also applauded the decision.
“This ruling is an important step forward for transparency and affirms what the NYPD believes – not only is the public entitled to this information, but this footage overwhelmingly shows just how brave, skilled and dedicated our cops are every single day in the service of the people of New York City,” O’Neill said in a statement.
The ruling represented a blow to the NYPD’s union, the Police Benevolent Association, which argued that such footage is part of an officer’s personnel record and should be blocked from the public. The PBA cited a state civil rights law known as 50-a, the Daily News reported.
The labor union might appeal, its president, Patrick Lynch, told the News.
“We believe that the court’s decision is wrong, that it will have a negative impact on public safety and on the safety of our members,” he said.
In its ruling, the panel said the PBA has “valid concerns” about privacy but that it was tasked with reviewing the big picture. A ruling in favor of the PBA could be interpreted to expand to “arrest reports, stop reports, summonses and accident reports, which clearly are not in the nature of personnel records so as to be covered by 50-a,” the panel wrote.
Christopher Dunn, legal director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, said that the union’s attempt to cite 50-a was “extreme” and “perfectly illustrates why the law must be repealed.”
A panel ordered by O’Neill last year concluded that the NYPD was policing itself with “almost a complete lack of transparency and public accountability,” according to the News.