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Body-Worn Cameras

NYPD Body-Worn Camera Program

What you need to know

The NYPD's body-worn camera roll-out to all uniformed patrol officers in New York City was completed in February of 2019. This represents approximately 20,000 cameras distributed to Police Officers, Detectives performing patrol functions, Sergeants and Lieutenants assigned to precincts, transit districts and public housing Police Service Areas to complete the roll-out

In April 2017, Phase I of the department's body-worn camera program began, and by the end of 2017, approximately 1,300 police officers were outfitted with cameras on the evening shifts in 20 precincts across the city. This first phase supported a year-long study of the effects of the body-worn cameras. In December 2017, the department commenced Phase 2 of the body-worn camera rollout equipping officers on all shifts in every precinct, transit district and Police Service Area citywide.

Additionally, in March of 2019, the NYPD began Phase 3 – rolling out approximately 4,000 body-worn cameras to specialized units such as the Emergency Services Unit, Strategic Response Group and Critical Response Command. The roll-out to specialty units is expected to be completed by August 2019.

Frequently Asked Questions About Body Cameras

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What are body-worn cameras and what is their purpose?

Body-worn cameras are small digital video cameras that police officers wear on their uniform shirts or winter jackets. Their purpose is to record enforcement and other encounters between the police and the public to establish a documentary record of those encounters. The use of body-worn cameras by police departments in other cities has shown that cameras help de-escalate encounters and reduce civilian complaints. The cameras may also provide important evidence in criminal and civil proceedings.

When are officers required to record video?

To balance the goals of the body-worn camera program with privacy concerns, officers will not record all interactions with the public. Officers must record certain events, including:

  • All uses of force
  • All arrests and summonses
  • All interactions with people suspected of criminal activity
  • All searches of persons and property
  • Any call to a crime in progress
  • Some investigative actions
  • Any interaction with emotionally disturbed people

Officers may not record certain sensitive encounters, such as speaking with a confidential informant, interviewing a sex crime victim, or conducting a strip search.

Will officers tell people that a camera is recording?

Officers must tell members of the public that they are being recorded unless the notification would compromise the safety of any person or impede an investigation. Officers do not need a person’s permission to start, or to continue, recording.

When may an officer turn the camera off?

Any events for which recording is required must be recorded from start to finish. If a member of the public asks an officer to turn off the camera, the officer may do so, but may continue recording if the officer thinks it unsafe or inadvisable to stop. Officers may not turn off the camera if the suspected perpetrator is still present on the scene.

How long will the NYPD keep the recordings?

The NYPD will retain all video recordings for 18 months. Video of arrests and other significant incidents will be retained longer.

When may officers view body-worn camera video?

In routine cases, officers will be allowed to view video before preparing reports. In officer–involved shootings, use-of-force cases, or when police misconduct is alleged, officers will be able to view video at a time allowed by the supervising investigator and before making any official statement. The technology will not permit officers to edit or delete any video evidence.

When may video be released to the public?

Members of the public can request video under the Freedom of Information Act. The NYPD will provide video as required by law, while protecting the privacy of people captured in the videos.

If a video captures evidence related to a criminal case, the NYPD will turn the video over to the prosecutor's office. Prosecutors will provide video to the defendant in accordance with criminal discovery laws.

If a camera records an officer-involved shooting or other high-profile incident, the NYPD will work with the relevant authorities and oversight to determine if a video can be made public without undermining a criminal investigation or interfering with a person's right to a fair trial.

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