The New York Police Department once seemed poised to be an early adopter of body cameras. A federal judge who thought the technology could curb unwarranted stops and searches of black and Hispanic men ordered in 2013 that a pilot program be established in at least five precincts. Three years later, not one of the department’s 35,800 officers is wearing a body camera, even as the devices have become a staple for officers elsewhere, the New York Times reports. The police department says it is committed to outfitting officers with body cameras, and that a company had been chosen to supply up to 5,000 over the next five years. A contract has yet to be signed, and a rollout of the cameras will not begin for months. The halting pace of the effort is notable for an agency that has pledged to make itself a model of technology-driven policing and a leader in improving police-community relations.
Since the unrest in Ferguson, Mo. and the police shootings of many citizens, police forces in Chicago, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, and Washington, D.C., each have at least 500 officers wearing the devices. The New York department conducted a pilot program involving 54 officers that ended in March. Spokesman J. Peter Donald said one of the lessons was that “we needed better policy guidance and training for officers on body cameras.” The project did not satisfy the federal court order calling for a robust pilot program. Even dashboard cameras, which have become standard in many departments, are not used in the vast majority of New York patrol vehicles. Police officials attributed the delays to the city’s procurement process and the need to carefully select the right equipment before proceeding on a larger scale. Ritchie Torres of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee said he believed the “glacial pace” reflected a lack of enthusiasm.