WAIT, BODY CAM RELEASE VIOLATES COPS’ CIVIL RIGHTS?
So, I grew up in New York City. Like most New Yorkers, I have some mixed feelings about the NYPD. There are over 34,000 police officers serving New York City. That’s larger than the majority of most nations’ armies. So when police leadership make asses of themselves, the trickle-down effect can be pretty negative. The latest example of this is the city’s largest police union, the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association (PBA). The PBA is suing to prevent the release of body cam footage. How is that an “ass-inine” move? Well, the NYPD Union says if the footage is released that it will violate police officers’ civil rights.
NYPD UNION SUES MAYOR, COMMISSIONER AND NYPD ITSELF TO STOP BODY CAM RELEASE
In fact, the PBA is suing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Police Commissioner James O’Neill as well as the NYPD itself. The suit is in effort to block the release of the body cam footage. The PBA is citing a piece of the New York statute. It’s the Civil Rights Law Section 50-a. It states that “all personnel records used to evaluate performance toward continued employment or promotion” must be “confidential and not subject to inspection or review.”
PBA WANTS PUBLIC RECORDS HIDDEN FROM PUBLIC FOR POLICE CONDUCT
So according to the PBA’s lawsuit, body cam footage can only be released if the police officer consents. Or by a court order. The PBA is literally arguing that body cam footage is actually “personnel records.” Chew on that for a bit. Say a cop shoots a nun. But we don’t know why. We don’t know anything at all. There are no witnesses, except the cop. Maybe the nun threatened the cop? Maybe she had a bazooka. But his body cam footage caught it all. But if we see it, it violates his civil rights?
OLD STATUTE USED TO KEEP COPS FROM EVER BEING ACCOUNTABLE, OR “CIVIL RIGHTS”
How asinine is that? That Civil Rights Law Section 50-a has been around since 1976. It was created “to prevent criminal defense lawyers from using ‘unsubstantiated and irrelevant’ allegations to undermine officers’ credibility in criminal cases.” But this idea of protecting cops from frivolous accusations is one thing. But the Police Union has pushed to expand that to cover…. everything. The PBA has been an active supporter of shoving whatever it can under the statute. And that now includes body cam footage. If the PBA has its way, NYPD officers will never, almost ever, be held accountable for bad conduct.
POLICE CONDUCT HIDDEN AS “PERSONNEL RECORDS?”
New York passed Section 50-a in 1976. It was “to prevent criminal defense lawyers from using ‘unsubstantiated and irrelevant’ allegations to undermine officers’ credibility in criminal cases,” Yale Law’s Case Disclosed explains. Since then, “New York courts have systematically expanded the coverage of the provision.” Lawyers for the city have happily exploited this expansion. They’ve argued that grievances filed by city inmates, transcripts of open disciplinary hearings, and reports about shootings should all be considered “personnel records.”
BODY CAM FOOTAGE IS PUBLIC PROPERTY
So yeah, I grew up in the City. And I’ve still got good reason to have mixed feelings about the NYPD. Especially the NYPD Union. But body cam footage recording public servants should be public property. It should be there to protect everyone’s civil rights, right? Cause police never do shenanigans…. And when guns come out, there’s never any confusion. Right? Let’s all hope body cam footage makes things better, and not worse. Be safe out there.