The NYPD has announced it will begin its pilot program for body-mounted cams on Wednesday, a full month earlier than previously announced. It has been implied that the move is motivated by tensions that could arise with the expected announcement of a grand jury’s ruling on the death of Eric Garner. Garner died after being placed in an unauthorized choke hold during an arrest for selling loosie cigarettes on a sidewalk.
The initial NYPD body cam program will only involve nine officers in six precincts, who will wear the cameras while on duty. Staten Island’s 120th Precinct, where Eric Garner’s death occurred, has been selected as one of the test precincts. The original announcement from August stated that the pilot program would ultimately include 50 officers.
The U.S. has experienced increased tension between communities and police over the last few months. After the Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson on charges related to the death Mike Brown, protests have erupted in cities around the country — including New York. If the grand jury reviewing the case of Eric Garner decides to bring no charges, further outrage is expected.
The likelihood of New Yorkers viewing the handful of body cams as anything more than a public relations move remains to be seen. In the case of Eric Garner, body cams would not have made much of a difference since the homicide was recorded on video, anyway.
The timing of the announcement coincides with Obama’s call on Monday for 50,000 federally funded body cameras to be distributed nationwide.
At least one prominent New York cop publicly supports the program. The Sergeants Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins told the Geraldo Rivera Show:
They will be able to clear the reputations of the police, which isn’t occurring right now. In the end … no one wants a bad police officer. For the most part, police officers are good people and do their job the right way. They are not what’s being portrayed in the media.
In the case of the pilot program, we can at least expect nine police officers to be more self-aware when on duty.