The first fatal New York Police Department shooting captured by body cameras raised questions about how the department will handle the recordings, reports the New York Daily News. Vague policies regarding the fledgling program, initiated in an effort to foster transparency, were released in April. The outline sidestepped the issue of whether or not the police department will make footage public, something many other law enforcement agencies do. Four camera-strapped cops were in the tight quarters of a Bronx studio apartment on Wednesday when Miguel Richards was killed with a knife in hand.
Police say the 31-year-old aimed a toy gun at the officers before they fired 16 shots. Requests for the video were rebuffed, as the NYPD and the city have yet to define how they will address the thorny issue as they expand their program. “Our colleagues in government have to look at this, too, including the district attorney, before we can determine how to handle that footage,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. The inclination, police officials said, is to define when they would release images as narrowly as possible, so as not to interfere in post-shooting investigations. Advocates argue such a policy would fly in the face of the court order that led the department to adopt the technology in the first place. Christopher Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union believes body cam videos should automatically be made available to the public — with redactions to protect privacy interests. “In the case of police shootings, it is particularly important for the public to see video footage, as police officials all too often provide incomplete or distorted accounts,” he said.