(Adds police union comment)
By Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK, Sept 4 New York City's police
commissioner unveiled body cameras on Thursday that his
department will start testing soon, demonstrating the equipment
by playing a short video showing a notably good-natured traffic
stop from an officer's perspective.
"I'm going to issue you a summons for that red light, OK?"
the unseen officer can be heard politely telling the driver he
has just pulled over. "Give me a second, OK?" the officer adds
in a reassuring voice, which the driver appears to think is fair
enough. "I'll be right back."
It is the sort of genteel encounter between an officer and a
civilian that Bill Bratton, the city's police commissioner since
January, said he hoped would become more common if both parties
know they are being recorded.
Other departments already using the cameras have found they
tend to bring out the best behavior on both sides and
"de-escalate" encounters with police, Bratton said at a news
conference at the headquarters of the nation's largest police
"I think clearly the officer, knowing they are being
recorded, will affect the behavior of the officer in a good
way," Bratton said. Only 60 of the city's 35,000 officers will
be asked to volunteer to wear the cameras in the pilot program.
The death of Michael Brown, the unarmed Missouri teenager
shot in the street by a police officer in disputed circumstances
last month, has brought renewed attention to the technology. The
officer who shot Brown was not wearing a camera.
Bratton said the cameras would provide a more objective
record of a police encounter than contradictory hearsay.
Two uniformed sergeants stood near Bratton, modeling the two
types of cameras the department will test. The first is made by
Taser International Inc, best known for its eponymous
stun guns. The second is from Vievu, a Seattle-based company
specializing in wearable cameras.
Bratton has said he is a fan of the technology and would
have launched tests even if a federal judge had not ordered the
department to do so last year as part of a ruling that found the
city's use of so-called stop-and-frisk tactics unconstitutional.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, one of the advocacy
groups that successfully sued the city over the stop-and-frisk
tactics, criticized the way the police department had gone about
launching the pilot program.
"This kind of unilateral decision on the part of the NYPD
follows the nontransparent, go-it-alone approach to police
reform we saw with the prior NYPD and mayoral administration,"
Darius Charney, one of the center's lawyers, said in statement,
referring to the New York Police Department and the former
mayor, Michael Bloomberg.
The city's largest police union has expressed skepticism
about the cameras. "Police officers have nothing to hide but
there are many unanswered questions as to how this will work
practically," Patrick Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen's
Benevolent Association, said in a statement on Thursday. "We
await the answers."
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Will Dunham and Ken