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Public Advocate Tests Proposed Police Body Cameras

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The city's public advocate is calling for a new pilot program to equip some police officers with body cameras. On Thursday, NY1 tested the technology with her during a stroll around City Hall. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.

Public Advocate Letitia James clipped it on and went out the door.

"We are trying out technology," James said.

In the wake of the death of Eric Garner, Public Advocate Letitia James is pushing a new pilot program to outfit 15 percent of police officers with body cameras, like this.

So she tested the technology with us, wearing the camera herself.

"It will provide an objective record of street encounters in the city of New York and I think as patrol officers patrol our streets it will go a long way to improve police and community relations," James says.

On Thursday, the public advocate recorded the interactions she had with passersby walking from her office to City Hall.

"Do you think that police officers should have cameras—wear cameras like this? What do you think?" James asked a passerby.

In our test run, the footage is shaky, but for the most part—clear. It records audio and the video comes time-stamped.

Police wearing cameras is nothing new. It's done in California, in North Carolina and beyond.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has called body cameras quote productive, bu t questions how advanced the new technology is.

"It's something that has to be worked on quite a bit to be used on the scale we are talking about here," the mayor said last month.

The police officers union says its holding off judgment for now.

One civil liberties group says its position is nuanced.

"Body cameras really show a lot of promise in evening out the balance when it's my word against an officer's word...but there has to be some common sense privacy protections in place," said Johanna Miller of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The public advocate argues it can be a tool for both officer and resident in high crime areas.

She adds, it's easy to use.

Her proposal would cost $5 million and, James says, produce millions in savings by eliminating lawsuits.

It's unclear how long it would take to implement this type of pilot program, but the public advocate certainly hopes it's something New Yorkers will start to see very soon.

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