A long-delayed pilot program under which 1,200 New York City police officers are to wear body cameras can begin next week as planned, after a federal judge in Manhattan on Friday denied a request by civil lawyers to halt the plan for review.
In an order, Judge Analisa Torres said an objection filed this week by lawyers who brought the suit that led to the program’s creation was premature.
Lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights, which brought the initial lawsuit, filed a letter on Wednesday in Federal District Court arguing that the draft policy governing how the cameras would be used and how the resulting footage woud be retrieved and stored was seriously flawed. Their request came after the policy was approved by the independent monitor overseeing stop-and-frisk changes ordered by the court.
Judge Torres said on Friday that the approval of the monitor, Peter L. Zimroth, was not subject to court review because it was not a final recommendation.
Darius Charney, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights and the lead lawyer in the initial case, Floyd v. City of New York, which challenged stop-and-frisk practices of the New York Police Department, said his team was disappointed and confused by the judge’s decision.
“In this context, I don’t know what’s premature about it,” he said, adding that the group would review recent court filings to “figure out if we missed something, then decide what we’re going to do.”
In a statement on Friday night, a spokesman for the Police Department said, “We are pleased with court’s ruling and look forward to the upcoming implementation of the body camera program.”
The order effectively ended nearly four years of delays for a program that was ordered in 2013 by a federal judge who ruled the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk tactics unconstitutional. It had been repeatedly postponed as various groups, including the police, the courts and the public, struggled with how it would be carried out.
The body camera program’s stated intent was to promote police accountability and transparency, and to protect communities that have faced aggressive police tactics. But Center for Constitutional Rights lawyers, backed by national civil rights groups and local police reform advocates, said the policy failed to include provisions necessary to achieve those ends.
The program will begin on Thursday with officers working the evening shift in Manhattan’s 34th Precinct, which serves the Washington Heights and Inwood neighborhoods.
The Police Department has planned to expand the yearlong pilot program to 20 precincts by the fall. The cameras would later be used by the entire patrol force, which officials estimate will increase to 23,000 officers by 2019.
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