Body cameras coming to NYPD as part of court-ordered pilot program

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

NEW YORK (PIX11) --  In New York City, potentially eye-opening, noteworthy or controversial police encounters are not rare.

For a police department 35,000 strong, serving a city with more than eight million people, a naked man walking the street is just another day on the job.

A professional news photographer recorded the encounter, so we don’t know what happened from the very first moment officers confronted and tased this unidentified man in Harlem Thursday.

But what if the responding officers were wearing body cameras?

What if NYPD officers were wearing body cameras when they encountered Eric Garner on a Staten Island sidewalk?

“The camera is a significant enhancement to the he said, she said controversy. That is, it is something to look at. But it is not the end all, if you will,” said Commissioner Bill Bratton.

Bratton announced Thursday the department is set to distribute 60 body cameras – in two different models – through all five boroughs as part of a court ordered pilot program.

“When the police officer encounters a situation – which will be determined by policy, the officer will activate the camera by pressing the button on his waist – twice,” said Sgt. Freer.

But Donna Lieberman, of the New York Civil Liberties Union still has concerns – particularly with that manual record button.

“By having a start/stop mechanism, if think you undermine that 'being part of the scenery' component," said Lieberman.

But there are alternatives, including a camera that’s constantly rolling. But you would quickly run into storage issues, and that could get very expensive. Another option includes technology we already have "Cheese."

Voice activation would force a police body camera to begin recording as soon as a police officer says, “stop, hands up!" or “license, registration, insurance”.

Neither of the NYPD’s models include voice activation, and for now, the pilot program is completely voluntary.