The New York Police Department has agreed to end its practice of withholding body-camera footage of police shootings from civilian investigators, a practice that sometimes derailed independent inquiries into deaths at the hands of police, ProRebulica reports. The change came weeks after ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine asked the NYPD about the practice as part of their investigation into the use of body cameras. For years, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which is charged with investigating police misconduct in New York City, has often been hamstrung in its ability to move ahead on the most serious cases because the NYPD refused to share footage of shootings and other serious incidents while the department did its own, often lengthy, internal investigation.
“We are pleased to have come to this agreement with NYPD and hope it will ensure officers who commit misconduct cannot avoid discipline due to a technicality,” said CCRB Chair Arva Rice in a statement. An investigation published last week detailed how the NYPD’s refusal to share footage had short-circuited the civilian agency’s efforts to punish an officer who had killed a young man named Kawaski Trawick. NYPD did not give the civilian agency any footage of the April 2019 incident until more than a year and a half later. When the department finally handed it over, the footage showed one officer shot and killed Trawick, despite the officer’s more experienced partner repeatedly telling him not to use force. “No, no, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t,” the more senior officer said. The CCRB filed disciplinary charges against the officer, triggering an NYPD trial earlier this year. But the police judge in the case decided there should be no discipline — because the CCRB had failed to file charges within an 18-month statute of limitations. The reason the CCRB hadn’t done so? The agency didn’t have the footage it needed to move ahead.