NYC Police Union Sues To Keep Bodycam Footage Confidential

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Anders Hagstrom Justice Reporter
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New York City’s primary police union filed a lawsuit to block the release of bodycam footage Tuesday, claiming its release infringes on the privacy rights of officers, the New York Times reported.

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) is the largest police union in the city, representing two-thirds of NYC’s 36,000 officers, according to the Times. The city plans to equip every patrol officer with a body camera before 2020, but the union’s lawsuit–submitted to the State Supreme Court Tuesday–argues that the police commissioner should not have the ability to release that information to the public.

“This footage has serious implications not only for the safety and due process rights of police officers, but for the privacy and rights of members of the public, as well,” union president Patrick Lynch told NYT.

Police Commissioner James O’Neill has already released footage of three police shootings under his leadership, two of which resulted in a death. Current policy allows the department to consider the release of footage on a case-by-case basis, but PBA argues that an officer’s bodycam footage constitutes a personal record and is therefore never open for release.

Robert Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on an Open Government, disagrees, arguing that officers have no claim of privacy regarding the footage.

“You have this myth that the disclosure of information relating to the performance of the duties of a public employee in some way relates to that person’s personal privacy,” he told NYT. “Not so. Not so. The record that indicates my salary is about me, but it’s not personal. It’s about me as a public employee.”

PBA’s move comes just weeks after the New York City Council adopted new restrictions on patrol officers. The bills, passed on Dec. 19, require cops to hand out business cards at traffic stops and inform anyone they’re stopping that they have the right to refuse to be searched.


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