NEW YORK (AP) — Compelled by video of a police chokehold death and the lack of such evidence in the fatal shooting of a Missouri teenager, a top New York City official Thursday intensified her push to equip the city's 35,000 officers with body-worn cameras.
Public Advocate Letitia James held a demonstration of the cameras, which she said would protect residents from misconduct and police officers from false allegations, all while saving the city millions of dollars in legal costs.
"This simple tool will go a long way in improving police-community relations in New York City," James said, holding up a camera that records up to 45 hours of audio and video.
James proposed a camera pilot program earlier this month, in the fervent aftermath of Eric Garner's chokehold death on Staten Island on July 17 while in police custody and Michael Brown's shooting death by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug. 9.
James said her office is reviewing two camera models that clip onto an officer's belt or lapel. They each have four to eight hours of battery life and are the size of a deck of cards. However, the type of camera used by officers would be chosen through a competitive bidding process.
Other details, such as when cameras should be turned on and off, would be left up to negotiations with the Mayor's office and the NYPD.
The pilot program would cost about $5 million and outfit about 15 percent of the force — primarily officers in areas with high rates of crime and misconduct complaints, James said.
Introducing the cameras, which sell for $450 to $900 each, across the department would cost about $32 million, she said.
That's a far cry from the city's spending on misconduct-related litigation. Last year alone those judgments and settlements cost city taxpayers $152 million, James said.
Some of the savings could be used to improve and add to the NYPD's arsenal of technology and improve station houses that "are clearly in need of repair," James said.
"It's a win-win for both the police and the community," James said.
In a 2013 federal ruling on the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy, Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin ordered some patrol officers to wear the cameras. That hasn't happened yet because the case is undergoing appeals.
James said Police Commissioner William Bratton has supported the use of body cameras in the past, and Mayor Bill de Blasio is reviewing her proposal.
At a press conference last month — before James proposed her plan — the mayor called body cameras a "productive idea" that needs to be worked on a bit more.
Patrick Lynch, president of the powerful Patrolmen's Benevolent Association has said he wants to see evidence of the cameras' effectiveness.
He said the city spends so much on legal costs because it "refuses to fight even the most ridiculous and baseless of the claims."