“We’re always being photographed out there, videoed by cell phone cameras, and we’d prefer, if possible, to have our own video of what happened,” Sgt. Mark Clark said.
Clark said some officers were initially reluctant to use the cameras but an incident a few weeks ago changed some minds. Cameras found that a person who filed a complaint against a motorcycle patrol officer made the whole story up.
“We showed the person the video and they said, ‘Um, I guess I must have remembered it wrong,’” Clark said.
Phoenix police also are testing out the cameras with about 50 of its roughly 1,400 patrol officers as part of a study with Arizona State University.
“We want to know how it affects an officer’s job,” said police spokesman Sgt. Tommy Thompson. “Are there people who will say, ‘Listen, turn off that camera or I’m not going to talk to you?’ When people are being filmed, do they calm down?”
An officer was fired last month when investigators reviewed video from his body-mounted camera and found he was profane and abrasive during calls and traffic stops, calling one person “an idiot.”
Las Vegas police are also currently testing a program to deploy cameras after the idea was endorsed by brass last year amid calls for a civil rights probe into the frequency of officer-involved shootings.
In New York, Scheindlin ordered that one police precinct per borough where the most stops occur should host the yearlong pilot program. That means possibly more than a thousand officers would be recording with cameras on their eye glasses or lapels.
But Scheindlin’s edict prompts more questions than answers. A court-appointed monitor tasked with overseeing all changes to the stop-and-frisk tactic would also iron out the details surrounding the cameras.
Among them: How much will this cost? The lapel units, about the size of a cigarette pack, range in price from $125 to more than $300 each. What is involved in creating virtual storage for the recordings? And most vexing for privacy advocates, how long would images be kept?
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who promised to appeal the judge’s ruling and delay implementing reforms, called the cameras no real solution.
“It would be a nightmare,” he said. “Cameras don’t exactly work that way. Camera on the lapel or the hat of the police officer — he’s turned the right way, he didn’t turn the right way, ‘my God, he deliberately did it.’”