In recent years, judges, politicians and ordinary citizens have held police officers accountable for misconduct based on video recordings. While much of this footage comes from passersby, other footage officers record with their own body cameras.
If someone you love becomes a victim of police brutality or another form of official misconduct, getting your hands on the officer’s body camera footage may be critical. Unfortunately, officers do not have to record all interactions with the public.
One of the official goals of police body cameras in New York is to provide accountability. Still, members of law enforcement, criminal suspects and the general public have certain privacy rights. Out of respect for these rights, officers in New York only must record interactions that meet certain criteria.
Once officers begin to record an interaction, they must complete the recording. That is, officers may not turn off their body cameras in the middle of an event. In New York, officers typically have a legal obligation to record the following:
- Uses of force
- Arrests and summonses
- Interactions with criminal suspects
- Searches of individuals or property
- Responses to crimes in progress
- Certain investigations
- Interactions with emotionally unstable individuals
Often, footage from police body cameras conflicts with the official report of an incident. If members of the public want to obtain body camera footage, they can file an official request under the Freedom of Information Law. Regrettably, officials may redact footage or even deny FOIL requests altogether.
In New York and across the country, officers should not violate the fundamental rights of those they should protect and serve. Ultimately, knowing when and how to obtain body camera footage may be critical in holding officers responsible for their illegal or unethical conduct.