July 30, 2015 | 11:04am  

 

NYPD should record all street encounters: watchdog

By Shawn Cohen

NYPD cops should press the record button on their body cameras during all types of street encounters — not just when there is “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity, a police watchdog agency says.

According to the Office of the Inspector General for the NYPD, the police department’s current policy governing the use of body cameras gives cops too much discretion.

This is one of several key issues that need to be worked out before the NYPD expands its pilot program to outfit thousands of additional officers.

“Ultimately, OIG-NYPD has found that NYPD’s reliance on a ‘reasonable suspicion’ standard for when activation of (body cameras) is mandatory is too restrictive to fully capture the wide range of police-community encounters,” the agency writes in a report issued Wednesday.

The department recently began soliciting bids for a manufacturer to add to the 60 cameras currently being tested by patrol officers in five crime-plagued precincts.

The agency reviewed the pilot program in preparing the 44-page report, interviewing the NYPD team that oversees the pilot, participating officers and various groups that deal directly with the department.

The IG also dissected the department’s policy, contrasting it with ones established by other police departments nationwide in dealing with issues such as when the cameras must be activated, how long footage should be stored and who should be allowed to access the footage.

The NYPD’s policy requires the data be stored for a minimum of one year, but the IG says this should be expanded to 18 months to cover the statute of limitations for filing administrative charges.

The report also cites a need to set limits on recording “vulnerable populations,” such as victims of sex crimes, abused children and crime witnesses.

The agency also says police should let people know when they’re being recorded.

“NYPD should provide officers with a model notification phrase to advise members of the public that they are being recorded, such as, ‘I am advising you that our interaction is being recorded.’”

Meanwhile, the NYPD needs to establish oversight mechanisms so supervisors can assure officers are activating and deactivating their cameras when required, and pursue discipline for noncompliance.

Limiting access to the data is another major issue. Officers who become the subject of an investigation should not be allowed to view the footage until after providing an official statement, the report states.

Similar restrictions should apply to citizens who file complaints, it adds.