The New York Police department announced Thursday that it’s launching a pilot program to test 60 cameras worn by officers, becoming the latest and largest police department in the country to accept the technology as a tool of modern law enforcement.
At a news conference, Police Commissioner William Bratton predicted that the cameras would soon become as commonplace as police radios and bulletproof vests.
“It is the next wave,” Bratton said. “It is going to be an essential part of what an officer wants to wear on patrol.”
The pilot program, funded by a $60,000 donation from a police foundation, is modeled after one being conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department, Bratton said. Officers will be asked to voluntarily use one of two versions — one worn behind the ear, the other clipped to the front of the uniform — while on patrol in five precincts around the city.
“This pilot program will provide transparency, accountability and protection for both the police officers and those they serve, while reducing financial losses for the city,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday in a joint statement with Public Advocate Letitia James.
Bratton cautioned that broader use of the cameras in the 35,000-officer department faces several hurdles, including costs that could run into the millions of dollars annually. The department still must develop protocols for when an officer should turn on a camera and determine how to store a potentially massive amount of video footage and for how long, he said.
The NYPD also must overcome skepticism from police unions. Bratton said he had met with union officials, telling them that there is evidence that the cameras can protect officers from false claims of abuse.
“It’s not a simple issue,” Bratton said. “There are a lot of complexities going forward.”
“Police officers have nothing to hide, but there are many unanswered questions as to how this will work practically,” PBA president Patrick Lynch said in a statement on Thursday. “We await the answers.”
Donna Lieberman, head of the New York Civil Liberties Union, worried the cameras may not be limited to police interactions.