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NYPD body cameras study finds few ‘statistically significant’ changes in cop behavior

NYPD body cameras aren’t a cure-all.


A study released Monday of NYPD officers equipped with body cams reported no “statistically significant changes in the number of arrests, arrests with force, summonses, domestic incident reports, and citizen crime complaint reports.”


The 165-page report was released by federal monitor Peter Zimroth as part of the court-ordered reform of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices. It analyzed a one-year snapshot of select cops equipped with the cameras beginning in April 2017.


“The use of BWCs is not a panacea, as the results of the study show. But it is a powerful tool for increasing transparency and accountability for the public and for police officials,” Zimroth wrote in the Manhattan Federal Court filing.


Legal Aid attorney Corey Stoughton said the data showed the cameras are not “the robust instrument of police accountability” many hoped.


“The actual evidence is quite depressing. There’s no effect on police behavior,” she said.


Zimroth was appointed seven years ago to oversee the reform of NYPD’s stop-and- frisk program, which was ruled unconstitutional in 2013 because cops disproportionately targeted Black and Hispanic people. Efforts at making the practice comply with the Constitution are ongoing. The monitor wrote in an October analysis that 21% of NYPD stop reports failed to articulate reasonable suspicion.


City Hall and the NYPD have touted body-worn cameras as improving transparency and police accountability. The NYPD has launched other reforms since the period covered by the study, including reform of police discipline procedures and the disbanding of plainclothes anti-crime units.


The cameras did yield some positive results, the study found, including a 21% reduction in complaints to the Civilian Complaint Review Board. But Zimroth cautioned that did “not seem powerful enough to change durable citizen perceptions of the NYPD.”


Other data highlighted a problem with cops underreporting incidents.


While the study was underway, the NYPD decided to issue body-worn cameras to more than 20,000 officers. The gadgets produce as much as 130,000 videos each week, making it the largest deployment of body camera technology in the country.

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