The largest police union in New York City is suing Mayor Bill De Blasio in order to stop the release of any and all body camera footage obtained by officers with the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”).
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (“PBA”) filed the lawsuit on January 9, claiming that the release of police body camera footage amounts to a violation of NYPD officers’ civil rights.
The PBA’s 30-page petition, filed by attorney Michael Bowe, mostly relies upon the contention that three specific releases of body camera footage by the City of New York constitute a violation of New York Civil Rights Law § 50-a. The suit, which aims to halt all further releases of any such body camera footage, reads, in relevant part:
Civil Rights Law § 50-a prohibits Respondents from releasing “records used to evaluate [a police officer’s] performance toward continued employment or promotion” that are “under the control of any police agency,” unless they have secured a Court ordered permitting them to do so.
In an additional memorandum filed alongside the lawsuit, Bowe wrote, “These selective releases are clearly prohibited by statute and long-standing court precedent, and reflect a reckless disregard for very serious safety, privacy, due process, and other interests.”
PBA President Patrick Lynch harshly condemned the release of body camera footage in a statement. He said:
This footage has serious implications not only for the safety and due process rights of police officers, but for the privacy and rights of members of the public, as well. The Mayor and the NYPD have shown a reckless disregard for these concerns by circumventing the existing process set up by the State Legislature and selectively releasing portions of videos to suit their own interests.
The “interests” Lynch is railing against are apparently the De Blasio administration’s stated commitment to openness from the mayor’s office.
In response to the lawsuit, De Blasio spokesman Austin Finan said, “The mayor and the police commissioner have spoken to the need for increasing transparency into the way our city is policed. The release of body camera footage, when possible, is an important extension of that commitment.”
[image via screengrab]