The New York Police Department has equipped all 20,000 uniformed officers with body cameras, a new milestone in the rollout of the devices despite setbacks last fall when some of them malfunctioned, the Wall Street Journal reports. Police Commissioner James O’Neill said the expansion would improve transparency, observing that the devices enhance officer safety and accountability. Officers in specialized units, including Emergency Services and the Strategic Response Group, will be outfitted with body cameras by August.
The department started its body-worn camera program in April 2017, with 1,300 officers wearing the cameras at 20 precincts. The department’s original goal was to equip all uniformed officers by the end of 2018, but the program was halted after a device burst into flames in October. A police officer took his body camera off when it was smoking and it then exploded. He wasn’t injured. NYPD recalled nearly 3,000 models of the camera that exploded, Vievu’s LE-5, and replaced them with the LE-4 and Axon Body-2. Axon, the company that acquired Vievu last year, said that safety was its primary concern. Officers are required to turn on the cameras when stopping or searching someone, issuing a summons or making an arrest. An appellate court ruled that body-camera footage could be released to the public and the media. NYPD is reviewing footage to respond to public-records requests.