NYPD officials ‘dragging their feet’ on release of body camera footage

Members of the Civilian Complaint Review Board addressed community members at the Jacob Riis Settlement Neighborhood House in Long Island City on Sept. 12. Photo via the CCRB.

Members of the Civilian Complaint Review Board addressed community members at the Jacob Riis Settlement Neighborhood House in Long Island City on Sept. 12. Photo via the CCRB.

By Luca Powell 

The NYPD has not yet complied with hundreds of requests for body worn camera-footage, according to a report published by the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the oversight agency that investigates complaints against cops 

Officials from the CCRB told attendees at a forum in Long Island City on Sept. 12 that there were “issues obtaining reliable and timely information” regarding police footage. From March to May of 2019, over 734 requests for recordings were left unresolved. As of June, that number is closer to 800, the CCRB reported.

“It defies logic that the NYPD does not want to assist us more,” said CCRB Chairperson Frederick Davie at the forum “Unless one wants to conclude that they don’t want us substantiating the cases. Now, I don’t want to conclude that.”

CCRB prosecutors investigating cases of police misconduct must bring charges within 18 months, unless the misconduct rises to the level of a crime, said a spokesperson for the CCRB. 

“I’m puzzled. Sometimes stunningly so, at the lengths the department will go to keep us from getting that footage,” Davie said.

No representatives from the NYPD attended the meeting, and the department has not yet responded to a request for comment. 

In a statement to the CCRB, however, the NYPD attributed the lag in response times to an influx of Freedom Of Information Law (FOIL) requests that the department must now fulfill. The FOIL requests have “overloaded”’ the Body Worn Camera unit, the NYPD said.

Video footage has become increasingly important in police misconduct investigations. Less than a month has passed since the firing of NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was caught on cellphone camera video using a banned chokehold to take Staten Island resident Eric Garner to the ground in 2014. 

Garner, who cops accused of selling untaxed cigarettes, died during the encounter and his last words, “I can’t breathe,” galvanized the nationwide movement for police accountability. The administrative judge’s recommendation to fire Pantaleo was an important victory for the CCRB, which pushed for the departmental disciplinary trial that found Pantaleo guilty.

“If this case were solely in the hands of the Staten Island Grand Jury, Daniel Pantaleo would still be a member of the NYPD,” Davie said at the forum.

Community members used the forum inside the Jacob Riis Neighborhood Settlement House to register their mistrust for the NYPD. They also questioned the CCRB’s complaint review process.

“The [board] is a phantom of an agency,” VOCAL-NY organizer John McFarlane told the Eagle. “It has no teeth. And the NYPD, they’re dragging their feet.”

McFarlane also suggested that the public is handicapped by laws like Article 50-A, which shields police disciplinary records from review and can keep body-worn camera footage confidential if the NYPD determines that it is “used to evaluate performance.” 

“There’s no oversight to expedite the [body-worn camera footage] process,” said McFarlane. “So why would they expedite it?”

NAACP Jamaica Director Candice Prince-Modeste said that the opacity further drives suspicion.

“Residents in Jamaica, Queens do not believe that officers who break the law will be appropriately punished,” Prince-Modeste told the board.