NYPD reform: Audio/video in use-of-force incidents must be released within 30 days

NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled additional police reforms Tuesday to increase transparency when officers use force.

The NYPD must release all audio and video within 30 days when:
--A police officer discharges their firearm that hits or could hit someone
--A police officer discharges their Taser in a way that results in death or substantial bodily harm
--The use of force by an officer results in death or great bodily harm

The audio and video footage will be publicly available online, but the civilian involved in the incident or their family will be notified prior to release and will be provided the opportunity to view footage in advance.

This new policy is effective immediately. Previously, disclosure had been at the discretion of the commissioner.

"I came into office with a promise to fundamentally change the way this city is policed, and that's exactly what we've tried to do," de Blasio said. "Historic wounds run deep and we know much work lies ahead, but we won't give up. This is another step in the right direction and we're not stopping here."
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Mayor Bill de Blasio announces new accountability measures regarding NYPD body-worn audio and video recordings.

NYPD Chief of Patrol Fausto Pichardo spoke to CNN about many of the recent changes and new initiatives, saying the department is in favor of the new audio/video rule.

"We want to make sure that we are held to a higher standard," he said. "I don't think we can take two steps without being watched with cameras. They've grown accustomed to the fact, not only from the extra eyes of cameras and phones out in the street, but recognizing that they wear body worn cameras too."

Also on Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation requiring state police to wear body cameras and creating the Law Enforcement Misconduct Investigative Office.

"The relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve isn't working," Cuomo said. "New York is the progressive capital of the nation, and we are leading the way by enacting real reforms to increase transparency in policing, promote accountability among our law enforcement agencies and ultimately mend that frayed relationship between the police and the community."

The new law requires all New York State Police patrol officers to use body-worn cameras while on patrol to record immediately before an officer exits a patrol vehicle to interact with a person or situation, all uses of force, all arrests and summonses, all interactions with individuals suspected of criminal activity, all searches of persons and property, any call to a crime in progress; investigative actions involving interactions with members of the public, any interaction with an emotionally disturbed person, and any instances where an officer feels any imminent danger or the need to document their time on duty.

The law also requires law enforcement to keep video records of all these interactions.

The Law Enforcement Misconduct Investigative Office will operate within the Department of Law to review, study, audit and make recommendations to police agencies in the state with the goal of enhancing the effectiveness of law enforcement, increasing public safety, protecting civil liberties and civil rights, ensuring compliance with constitutional protections and laws, and increasing the public's confidence in law enforcement.

The office will also handle misconduct complaints statewide about any local law enforcement agencies. Unlike the Special Prosecutor, which is triggered only upon a law enforcement related death, this will allow for an independent review of complaints of misconduct for any local law enforcement agency.

For state police agencies, the State Inspector General and the MTA Inspector General and Port Authority Inspector General have their jurisdiction expanded to receive complaints of law enforcement misconduct.

The announcements come one day after the NYPD announced it is eliminating its anti-crime unit, a group of plainclothes officers who blend in to fight crime but have caused tension in relations with the communities.

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea described the move as a massive cultural shift for the department, saying the 600 officers who are part of the unit will be transitioned to other departments, including the detective bureau and neighborhood policing.
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The NYPD announced Monday it is eliminating its anti-crime unit, a group of plainclothes officers who blend in to fight crime but have caused tension in relations with the communit

"This is a seismic shift in the culture of how the NYPD polices this great city," he said. "I would consider this in the realm of closing one of the last chapters of 'Stop, Question and Frisk'...I think it's time to more forward and change how we police in this city. We can do it with brains. We can do it with guile. We can move away from brute force."

The aggressive unit is known as the tip of the spear against violent crime and illegal guns. But all too often, that means it's anti-crime cops who would wind up in shooting incidents, and now Shea says it's time to find another way.

"It is lost on no one, certainly not the people who live in the neighborhoods that we serve, that endure being stopped," Shea said. "Or their children being stopped. We can do it better we can do it smarter and we will."

Anti-crime officers are often closest to criminals, and Shea said the move is "not without risk" as he questioned whether the decision would result in fewer firearms being taken off the streets. He said the risk is "squarely on my shoulders."

In addition, in an interview with the Associated Press, Shea said he's open to giving up some functions the NYPD has taken on, such as school safety and traffic enforcement, which together cost about $500 million, but balked at proposals to reduce the headcount of uniformed officers and eliminate new recruiting classes at the academy.

PBA President Pat Lynch blasted the decision to eliminate the anti-crime unit.

"Anti-Crime's mission was to protect New Yorkers by proactively preventing crime, especially gun violence," he said in a statement. "Shooting and murders are both climbing steadily upward, but our city leaders have clearly decided that proactive policing isn't a priority anymore. They chose this strategy. They will have to reckon with the consequences."

Civil rights attorney Joel Berger, however, said it was long overdue.

"The anti crime units are just a legacy of street crime from the days of Giuliani, with the motto, 'We own the night,' just under a different name," he said. "I never thought of it as real crime prevention. It was designed as social control in minority neighborhoods to show them who is the boss, just like stop and frisk. You should not be particularly surprised that despite the elimination of stop and frisk, people in minority neighborhoods still distrust the police. My only question is why did it take so long."

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