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NYPD now required to publicly release body-worn camera footage when excessive force used, mayor says

Mayor Bill de Blasio outside the Javits Center on Sunday, April 5, 2020. (TNS)

The NYPD will be required to immediately start releasing body-worn camera footage to the public within 30 days when an officer uses force that results in death or when guns and tasers are forcefully used, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday.

The latest change to the largest police force in the country marked the second day of reform to the NYPD on the heels of nationwide police reform protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Previously, the release of body-worn camera footage to the public had been solely at the discretion of the police commissioner and for “narrow purposes,” the mayor said.

Now, the NYPD will be required to release video and audio from body-worn cameras when an officer discharges their firearm in a way that could hit someone; discharges their taser in away that results in death or “substantial bodily harm;” or if the use of force by an officer causes death or “great bodily harm.”

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That audio and video footage will also be made available online for the public to see after family members of civilians involved are notified, the mayor said.

De Blasio said he hoped the public release of body-worn camera footage would help to “build trust” between police and communities.

“When one of these three criteria is met, it is crucial that the information comes out properly, that people have faith it will come out, it will come out objectively, that creates trust, that creates accountability,” de Blasio told reporters during a press conference Tuesday.

“That says to the many many good officers that they know the whole truth will come out from what they saw from their literal perspective, and it says to any officer who doesn’t yet fully understand their responsibilities, that they will be held accountable and there will be consequences,” de Blasio continued.

A day earlier, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea announced the department would end the use of plainclothes anti-crime units — moving over 600 of those officers to other assignments including neighborhood policing.

Shea said the move would close one of the last chapters of “stop, question and frisk.”

But Shea did not attend the mayor’s daily press briefing Tuesday to join de Blasio in announcing changes to the body-worn camera disclosure policy.

Asked why Shea was missing and what the state of their relationship was after rumors of the police commissioner’s departure, de Blasio insisted things were “fine” between them.

“Our relationship is fine, it’s been a great relationship from the beginning,” de Blasio said, adding that the commissioner is someone who “truly believes in reform.”

The protests and the death of George Floyd also prompted police accountability action at the state level in New York.

Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a sweeping package of police accountability reform bills, including one allowing the release of officers’ long-withheld disciplinary records.

This week, Cuomo said he would sign three additional bills related to officer weapon discharges, police and court data on arrest demographics, and requirements that officers lend mental and medical health aid to detainees who require it.

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© 2020 Staten Island Advance