Speaker Carl Heastie today announced the Assembly has passed legislation to establish the New York State Body-Worn Cameras Program to increase accountability and evidence for law enforcement and the residents of the state by providing body-worn cameras to all state police officers while on patrol.
Over the last few years, there has been a national conversation taking place surrounding law enforcement accountability and transparency, said Speaker Heastie. For years, the Assembly Majority has been ready to deliver real change and has fought tirelessly for much needed criminal justice reforms. We join the nation in mourning the death of yet another unarmed black man, and we stand ready to answer the call for action.
As one of the largest state police agencies in the country, the New York State Police should be one of the first agencies to set an example, to show others how to properly use body cams to deliver transparency and accountability to the public, said Assemblymember Latrice Walker. This legislation will help bring to light when excessive force is used, and hopefully ultimately reduce the number of use of force incidents and take a critical first step in repairing the trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
Under the bill, the Division of State Police would provide body-worn cameras to all New York State Police officers to be worn at all times while on patrol (A.8674-A, Walker). The cameras would record:
- immediately before an officer exits a patrol vehicle to interact with a person or situation, even if there is a dash camera inside such vehicle which might also be recording the interaction;
- all uses of force, including any physical aggression and use of a non-lethal or lethal weapon;
- all arrests and summonses;
- all interactions with people suspected of criminal activity;
- all searches of persons and property;
- any call to a crime in progress;
- investigative actions where there are interactions with members of the public;
- any interaction with an emotionally disturbed person; and
- any instances where officers feel any imminent danger or the need to document their time on duty.
The legislation would also allow the attorney general to investigate any instance where body cameras fail to record an event. At the discretion of the officer, body cameras may not record:
- sensitive encounters, including but not limited to speaking with a confidential informant, or conducting a strip search; or
- when a member of the public asks such officer to turn off the camera, provided, however, such officer may continue recording if he or she thinks a record of that interaction should be generated.
The Division of State Police is required to preserve the recordings of the body-worn cameras and perform all upkeep on the equipment.