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News media seeks to join court case over NYPD body cam video

March 2, 2018

NEW YORK (AP) — Fourteen news entities have urged a Manhattan judge to reject a New York police union’s efforts to squelch the release of police body camera footage.

The media organizations asked a state Supreme Court judge in Manhattan Thursday to be added as a party to litigation resulting from a lawsuit the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association filed in January.

The lawsuit by the association representing about 24,000 uniformed officers seeks to stop the release of body camera footage. It was filed against Mayor Bill de Blasio, police Commissioner James P. O’Neill and the New York City Police Department.

The NYPD released the first footage of a fatal police shooting caught on a body camera in September 2017. It has since released footage from other shootings.

Last month, Judge Shlomo Hagler rejected the PBA’s effort to block the release of body camera footage while the lawsuit proceeds.

The media groups, including The Associated Press, say body camera footage is necessary to “fully and accurately report on public safety and criminal justice issues.”

They say their interests are different from the interests of government officials and entities named as defendants in the lawsuit.

The media court papers said body camera footage “provide an objective, first-hand account of police interactions with citizens,” making them particularly valuable sources of information for the press when it reports on matters of public concern.

Other media outlets included in the filing are the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Hearst Corp., Buzzfeed, Cable News Network Inc., The Center for Investigative Reporting, Daily News LP, Dow Jones & Co. Inc., Gannett Co. Inc., Gizmodo Media Group LLC, New York Public Radio, The New York Times Co., NYP Holdings Inc. and Spectrum News NY1.

In a release, PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said the lawsuit was filed to ensure compliance with existing law requiring footage to only be released with a court order and after a hearing.

He said granting news organizations unlimited access to body camera footage would often mean “highly private, embarrassing or disturbing footage of private citizens” might be made available without restriction as well.

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