|NEW YORK, NY: Wednesday at City Hall, Council Member Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn), reintroduced legislation commonly referred to as the ‘Right to Record’ Act. The bill, which was initially introduced during the summer of 2016, can now be considered by the New York City Council in this term.
The bill, now designated as Intro 721, and co-prime sponsored by Council Member Williams and Council Member Helen Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) would prohibit New York City police officers or peace officers from taking any steps to prevent the recording of their activities, unless such recording would constitute the crime of obstructing governmental administration in the second degree. The bill also allows any individual who is prevented or discouraged from filming such activities to sue the City in state court.
The issue of civilians recording police activity, and its role in identifying police misconduct, has risen to prominence in recent years, notably in the cases of Eric Garner, Philando Castile, and others who have died during encounters with police officers. The NYPD, and other departments across the country, have also implemented their own recording practices using body cameras- with Mayor de Blasio promising to expand usage of body cameras by the NYPD to 18,000 cameras by the end of 2018, which would equip all officers on patrol. There have been questions raised about the selective release of the footage collected by body cameras.
Council Member Williams has been an advocate for policing reform throughout his time on the New York City Council, including his work on the Community Safety Act, which helped to address the abuses of stop, question and frisk and curtailed bias-based policing practices.
“While we have made significant progress in policing practices in the last several years, there are two areas in which have not seen improvement; accountability and transparency.” said Council Member Williams. “Recent revelations about the lack of substantial accountability for officers who have committed serious offenses serve to accentuate the need for the kind of public transparency that civilian recording can provide. The people have a right to record officer activity, and that right must be codified and protected.”
“New York City residents have a fundamental constitutional right to document their interactions with local law enforcement in public spaces — using photos, video or other means. The Right to Record Act reaffirms our First Amendment rights, helping to ensure that civilians who record police activity are not harassed or otherwise stopped, and I’m proud to support it,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.