Police Magazine  

January 9, 2018

NYPD Union Sues Mayor Over Release of Body Camera Footage

MANHATTAN (CN) – New York’s largest police union sued Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill on Tuesday to block the release of body-cam footage of three police-related shootings.

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which represents roughly 36,000 officers, also wants a Manhattan Supreme Court judge to issue a declaration forbidding any other videos from coming to light absent an order or permission.

Portions of all three videos the union wants to make secret have already been published by the news media: The first two depict the fatal shootings that killed Miguel Antonio Richards and Cornell Lockhart in the Bronx on Sept. 6, 2017.

Police say they shot Richards to death after seeing him holding a real knife and what they did not realize to be a fake gun, and they fired at Lockhart after he allegedly stabbed two female security guards at a home for the mentally ill.

The union also wants to put the kibosh on footage of the non-fatal shot that injured Hamilton Heights resident Paris Cummings on Oct. 22, 2017.

Police had arrived at Cummings’ home after receiving a call for a man who had been attempting suicide, and say they fired at his leg to prevent him from stabbing himself.

PBA’s attorney Michael Bowe, from the New York firm Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, filed a 30-page petition denouncing release of the body-cam footage together with a 36-page legal memorandum on Tuesday morning.

“These selective releases are clearly prohibited by statute and long-standing court precedent, and reflect a reckless disregard for very serious safety, privacy, due process, and other interests held not just by police officers, but equally by the individuals who are the subject of recorded video, their families, those responsible for investigating potential criminal conduct, and private citizens innocently caught up in such highly intrusive video footage,” Bowe wrote in the memo.

“No one should be comfortable with politicians unilaterally deciding without process or standards when and what recorded video footage to release and on what basis,” he added. “And, in fact, the law prohibits them from doing so.”

PBA President Patrick Lynch echoed this sentiment in a statement.

“This footage has serious implications not only for the safety and due process rights of police officers, but for the privacy and rights of members of the public, as well,” he said.

De Blasio’s spokesman Austin Finan defended the body-cam footage release as part of his administration’s commitment to transparency.

“The mayor and the police commissioner have spoken to the need for increasing transparency into the way our city is policed,” Finan said in a statement. “The release of body camera footage, when possible, is an important extension of that commitment.”

The union wants a judge to annul those decisions, and deny any more sunlight on the body-cam footage without a judge’s order or officer consent.