New York City police to wear body cameras under labor settlement

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City and its largest police union settled on a tentative five-year labor contract on Tuesday that includes salary increases while also agreeing that all patrol officers will wear body cameras by the end of 2019.

The agreement “is a big step forward for a vision of safety in which police and the community are true partners,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference with union and police officials.

The New York Police Department, the nation’s largest, already has a pilot program with cameras for 1,000 officers. But further rollout was stymied by a lawsuit, which the union agreed to drop as part of the deal.

New York will join other cities requiring their police forces to wear body cameras amid nationwide concerns over use of excessive force by police. Chicago aims to have the devices on all officers by the end of this year.

The contract agreement also removes a potentially expensive uncertainty that was a hold-over from former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who left office at the end of 2013 with every public-sector labor contract long-expired.

Since taking office, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has chipped away at negotiations with teachers and other unions, but the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association contract was still a major sticking point.

Reached at about 4 a.m. on Tuesday, the agreement will cost the city $530.4 million altogether, most of which will be covered by a labor reserve fund. Including healthcare savings, the net cost to the city is $336.7 million.

The deal, covering nearly 24,000 police officers, includes a 2.25 percent bump in base salary for patrol officers as they shift to a new method of neighborhood policing which focuses more on beat patrols and community interaction.

The increase that patrol officers get will be offset in part by lower starting salaries for new hires, although their maximum salaries will rise. Upon approval by union members, the new contract would go into effect March 15.

The city will also support the union’s efforts to get state lawmakers to provide disability benefits at three-quarters of salary, while the union agreed to drop other lawsuits against the city.