Police body cameras can help reduce the kind of bogus stops that have fueled accusations of racial bias and harassment against New York City police officers, said a long-awaited report released Monday, the New York Times reports. Officers who wore the devices reported almost 40 percent more stops than officers who did not, the report found, suggesting that body cameras could compel officers to provide a more accurate accounting of their pedestrian stops under the policy known as stop-and-frisk. Peter Zimroth, the federal monitor who prepared the report, attributed the increase in documented stops to officers being more inclined to record their actions on official paperwork, knowing that they were recorded and could be reviewed.
Underreporting has hindered court-ordered reform efforts for years. The report suggests that the cameras are key to understanding the scope of the problem and fixing it. While body cameras are not a cure-all for policing problems, Zimroth said, their ability to illuminate police encounters can be “a powerful tool for increasing transparency and accountability for officers, the public and for police officials.” The report found that encounters were significantly more likely to involve Black or Hispanic people. They were also more likely to be deemed unlawful by supervisors reviewing the resulting video. Darius Charney of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a plaintiffs’ lawyer in the stop-and-frisk case, said the study’s key findings suggest that the problems at the heart of the case — underreporting and racial bias — are much larger than previously known. Police spokesman Alfred Baker said the department welcomed the report, but it reflected outdated practices. Some 22,000 of the department’s 35,000 officers wear the cameras, including all officers on patrol and in specialized units.