Public advocate to debut police body camera technology

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NEW YORK (PIX11)-- Public Advocate Letitia James will debut body cameras she says can possibly improve relations between police and local communities, but there's still no decision whether the NYPD will adopt the technology.

One in six police departments cross the country use the body-worn cameras that record officers' interactions on the job.

Atlantic City police officers already have started wearing body cameras. About five officers a shift will be equipped with the devices and their video will be uploaded at the end of their shift, The Press of Atlantic City reports.

In California, complaints against police who wear the technology dropped 88 percent.

A witness' cellphone camera exposed the illegal use of a chokehold by a police officer responding to the arrest of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old father from Staten Island who died in police custody.

Proponents of the on-body cameras contend they could help uncover further misdeeds and keep officers transparent. But there's still no official decision about whether New York officers will wear the cameras.

"We are reserving our decision on body cameras until we see some real evidence of their effectiveness and impact on the officers who carry them," the Police Benevolent Association President said.

In the wake of Garner's death, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton promised to retrain the entire department. But James believes that isn't enough.

Thursday in her offices she will be demonstrating technology that would put body-worn cameras on 15 percent of the officers on patrol right now.

The cameras would cost about $450 a piece. The pilot program is projected to cost $5 million. Outfitting the entire department would cost $32 million.

Experts say those costs compared to the $152 million in judgements the city paid out last year and the cost to the community are well worth it.

Bratton has vacillated on his opinion on the cameras. Last year, he first said it was a good idea and now says it needs to be well thought out.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has said it's a "productive idea."

Under James's plan, the first officers to receive the cameras would come from precincts with the highest number of complaints: 75 and 73 in East New York, 79 in Bed-Stuy, 40 and 44 in the Bronx, and 120 in Staten Island, the precinct in which Garner was killed.