Two recent episodes offer compelling evidence that Police Commissioner Jimmy O’Neill is right in his commitment to swiftly release body-camera footage in the wake of disputed uses of force. And police unions are wrong in trying to tie the NYPD’s hands.
Video reflects reality, and reality must see the light of day whether it reflects poorly on police or shows them behaving honorably, as the vast majority do most of the time.
Case one: In Milwaukee in January, a Milwaukee Bucks player named Sterling Brown parked in two spaces reserved for people with disabilities. A simple parking infraction escalated; before long, a half-dozen police officers were violently arresting, manhandling and tasering Brown.
Police had blamed Brown for becoming confrontational, escalating a tense interactions and precipitating the tasering.
That’s not what the images showed. Instead, aggressive behavior by the first cop on the scene turned what could and should have been a calm interaction into a violent one.
When the truth came out, the police chief and mayor apologized — and disciplined the cops.
Case two: Outside Dallas on May 20, a woman named Sherita Dixon Cole, who happens to be black, accused a white police officer of sexually assaulting her during a routine traffic stop. Her incendiary claims were shared online more than 50,000 times.
Body camera footage released three days after the incident showed Officer Daniel Hubbard acting professionally — and produced an apology from Dixon Cole’s attorney.
Here in New York, the NYPD, which is slowly rolling out body cams citywide, committed to releasing footage expeditiously, particularly in sensitive cases involving use of lethal force. Video released so far has tended to show the Finest acting responsibly in controversial shootings.
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association — the city’s largest police union — is fighting in court to block release of the footage.