NEW YORK (Reuters) – Following public outrage at the death of a New York City man who was put in a choke hold while being arrested, the city’s public advocate called on Monday for police officers to be outfitted with body-worn cameras.
Public Advocate Letitia James recommended a pilot plan, costing about $5 million, that would start in the city’s most crime-plagued neighborhoods and would seek to restore public trust in the police department as controversy over aggressive policing tactics continues to mount.
In addition, the cameras could help save the city millions of dollars more when defending bogus lawsuits, James said, pointing to cities from Los Angeles to Washington that have seen success with similar measures.
To start, roughly 15 percent of all patrolling police officers would be required to wear the cameras and record every stop. James, an elected official whose office serves as a watchdog over city agencies, said the program would ultimately spread to all the city’s precincts over time.
“We must continue to work to improve the relationship between the NYPD and our communities, beginning with a system that promotes more transparency and responsibility,” James said in a statement.
Public debate on policing in the city has raged following the July 17 death of Staten Island man Eric Garner, who was placed in a choke hold by officers and died a short time later. Police were attempting to arrest Garner for selling illegal cigarettes outside a beauty parlor.
The New York City medical examiner ruled earlier this month that the death of Garner, a father of six, was a homicide caused by “compression of neck (choke hold).”
Choke holds are prohibited by the New York City Police Department. No police officers have been charged in Garner’s death.
The city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board has said that it is reviewing the 1,022 chokehold allegations made against police from 2009 to 2013.
(Reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Eric Beech)
[Image via Paul Stein, Creative Commons licensed]