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High-tech camera may be new tool on NYPD uniforms

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A New York official is proposing that New York City police officers wear body cameras in light of potential police misconduct in the death of a citizen.

The proposition comes just weeks after Eric Garner was killed July 17 in New York's 120th precinct in Staten Island, after a police officer used a chokehold to arrest him. The manuever was captured on camera.

"I'm here today to call on Mayor de Blasio and the Police Commissioner to immediately begin a pilot program to equip police officers with body-worn cameras at police precincts with the highest rates of police misconduct and crime, and to ultimately implement use of body cameras for all patrol officers in all precincts in the city," said Public Advocate Trish James, an elected official who is advocating for a pilot program of body-worn cameras for police officers.

The pilot program would cost about $5 million, based on estimates of similar programs in other cities in the U.S. If implemented widely, the program could actually save the city money. Last year, the city paid out $152 million because of police misconduct. Outfitting the entire New York Police Department with the cameras would cost $32 million.

"We've seen several significant incidents related to police misconduct in New York City. We must turn this low point in our city's history of police community relations to a turning point. In the wake of recent events, training and changes to protocol are, of course, necessary and I applaud the Mayor and Police Commissioner for proposing these steps, but more must be done.

"We know more must be done because that NYPD protocol has prohibited chokeholds since 1993, and yet in the last five years, there were over 1,000 complaints of illegal chokeholds to the Civilian Complaint Review Board," James continued.

A study conducted with the Rialto Police Department found complaints dropped by 88 percent and use of force by 59 percent after body cameras were in use. Pilot programs are also being instituted in a number of cities around the U.S., including Cleveland, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami and Washington.

"When you compare $152 million in judgments that we paid out last year compared to $32 million if we were to do this citywide, there would be some savings and obviously it would improve police-community relations," James said.

If the plan does go ahead, the precincts with the highest crime rate would be the first to get cameras on their police officers.

So far, in 2014, abuse of authority has accounted for 49 percent of all complaints to the Civilian Complaint Review Board. Force accounted for 31 percent.

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