NYC police union likely to appeal ruling on body cameras

The NYPD can once again make its officers' bodycam footage available to the public. A Manhattan-based state appeals court ruled against New York's largest police union, which argued the footage is primarily used to evaluate an officer's job performance and therefore confidential under state law.

The court rejected that argument, finding: "The purpose of body-worn camera footage is for use in the service of other key objectives of the program, such as transparency, accountability, and public trust-building."

Adam Wandt, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said the court got it right.

"The point of a body cam is to help relations between the police department and the public, help show that police activities are open and transparent," Wandt said, "help the police officers gather evidence at the scene of the crime."

Police Commissioner James O'Neill said in a statement, "This ruling is an important step forward for transparency, and affirms what the NYPD believes—not only is the public entitled to this information, but this footage overwhelmingly shows just how brave, skilled and dedicated our cops are every single day in service of the people of New York City."

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, representing about 36,000 officers, sued the mayor and the NYPD last January to stop the city from releasing footage of police shootings in 2017 that killed Miguel Antonio Richards and Cornell Lockhart in the Bronx and that injured Paris Cummings in Hamilton Heights.

Wandt said the NYPD now faces a new challenge.

"We have to look at this in a balancing act and figure out what the right way is to release videos without compromising the officers or law enforcement operations," Wandt said.

Although the NYPD already made those 2017 videos public by the time the lawsuit began, the court fight may still go on, according to PBA president Patrick Lynch.

"We believe that the court's decision is wrong, that it will have a negative impact on public safety and on the safety of our members," Lynch said in a statement. "We are reviewing the decision and assessing our options for appeal."