The city and the NYPD are being sued over use of police body camera video.
The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association (PBA) said Tuesday that the footage released by the NYPD has serious implications on the safety of officers, as well as for the privacy of members of the public caught on camera.
The lawsuit cites a state law which bars public release of all police personnel records — unless a judge signs off on it.
PBA President Patrick Lynch said in a statement, "The Mayor and the NYPD have shown a reckless disregard for these concerns by circumventing the existing process set up by the State Legislature and selectively releasing portions of videos to suit their own interests."
Filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, the union's lawyers wrote: "Since September 2017, Respondents have unilaterally been releasing body-worn camera ("BWC") footage without even seeking, let alone securing, the required judicial approval, or providing any of the interested parties the opportunity to be heard."
In a twist, the NYPD once used the same legal rationale when denying NY1's request for body camera footage, when the station took the city to court, forcing them to release some, but not nearly all, of the footage that the station is seeking in an ongoing case.
Now, a City Hall spokesman said, "The Mayor and the Police Commissioner have spoken to the need for increasing transparency into the way our city is policed. The release of body camera footage, when possible, is an important extension of that commitment."
Some say the PBA will lose. "I can see of no legitimate reason why the transparency should not trump what they've said in their press release," said Arnie Kriss, the NYPD's former deputy commissioner for trials.
Kriss says the section of law that the union is citing protects personnel files, not videos.
"As a matter of fact, it's no different to me than a video camera that may be on the wall of a building," Kriss said.
The New York Civil Liberties Union adds that identity concerns can be addressed by blurring faces.
"It's in nobody's interest to cover up wrongdoing by the police, and it's in everybody's interest to see how challenging it is for police to do their job," said Donna Lieberman, the executive director, of the New York Civil Liberties Union.