Letitia James, New York City’s public advocate, called Monday for the NYPD to hurry up and make with the body cameras, a proposal that emerged partly out of a court decision last year on the controversial stop and frisk program. Part of the ruling in Floyd v. City of New York called for a pilot program with small, wearable cameras to record interactions, which have been used in other jurisdictions with dramatic results.
When the city of Rialto, CA outfitted their officers with cameras two years ago, they saw an 88 percent reduction in claims against the department.
James couched her proposal as a response to the choking death of Staten Island man Eric Garner, who was killed by an NYPD officer during an arrest last month. But she also used an economic argument, saying that police settlements, which cost the city millions, could be reduced if there was a running record of police encounters.
Just like businesses and sometimes individuals, cities routinely settle lawsuits of all kinds. Click your way through local cvil flings and you’ll see lawsuits against the city over broken curbs that allegedly caused people to trip, tree branches that fell and damaged buildings or individuals, and all manner of other claims.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer recently set up a website that allows anyone to explore the city’s settlement costs, and even provides handy interactive maps like the one seen in the image with this story. According to Stringer, legal settlements and judgments related to the police department were the highest of any city agency, $137.2 million in fiscal year 2013. It’s a pattern repeated in cities all over the country.
With wide-scale protests in Ferguson, MO, after the mid-day killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, police cameras have been getting press all over the country. The Ferguson Police Department reportedly already owned body-worn cameras that might have shed light on what happened in that incident, but they’d never actually been deployed.
Overall, the city expects to pay out more than $674 million in legal settlements in fiscal year 2015, many of them related to personal injury, and more than a few of them laughable. Last year, a personal trainer sued the city for an injury sustained when he decided — all on his own — to climb a sculpture in Hudson River Park. After he fell, and tore his achilles tendon, he lodged a claim asserting that the sculpture, a slab of grayish rock, should have had a sign warning people not to climb it, and presumably a notification that gravity’s a thing.
Check out ClaimStat here, and Stringer’s report on the following page.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 13, 2014