Sept. 21 (UPI) — New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that from now on her office will release police body camera footage when an officer kills an unarmed civilian instead of leaving the decision to do so to the local authorities.
The police reform was prompted by the death of Daniel Prude who was killed earlier this year in police custody and by the fallout caused by local officials releasing such footage months after the incident occurred.
In a press conference held on what would have been Prude’s 42nd birthday in the city where he was killed, James said her office will be taking over the responsibility of releasing the police body camera footage as leaving it to local authorities has caused confusion, delays and the hampering of transparency.
“We will no longer wait for local authorities to determine when videos should be made available to the public, and we will be doing this with an eye towards making footage available to the public as quickly as possible, publicizing the footage as soon as we have shown it to the deceased’s family,” she said, adding that the new policy goes into effect immediately.
Prude died March 30, a week after being detained by police while experiencing a mental health issue. The video of the arrest released early this month showing police officers holding an unarmed Prude with a hood over his head facedown on the ground sparked protests in the city.
Since the release of the footage, the seven officers involved in the arrest have been suspended and the city’s police chief has resigned.
The announcement also follows the city of Rochester last week releasing 325 pages of internal documents, including emails and police reports, documenting police and city officials working to delay the release of the body camera footage.
James told reporters that her office did not instruct Rochester officials to delay the release of the footage of Prude’s arrest.
“All the emails that I’ve seen so far in the media would suggest that they used our policies and practices as an excuse to suppress the video and that’s unfortunate,” she said.