Roosevelt Island Seeks to Put Cameras on Safety Officers

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Roosevelt Island is planning to put body-mounted cameras on their public safety officers.

This follows an incident in January in which a 20-year-old man was allegedly beaten by the officers, and years of what residents say is excessive use of force by their public safety department. They are employees of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, a state agency, and not a part of the New York Police Department.

Body-mounted cameras are being used by dozens of police departments around the country, and some say it’s a very useful tool.

“We actually had an officer involved shooting, where an officer was actually caught on camera, body-worn camera, having to engage someone with a firearm,” said Levi Risley, the captain at the Fort Smith Police Department in Arkansas. “And the officer was able to be cleared relatively quickly by the local prosecuting attorney of his actions, and it was a justifiable homicide.”

Captain Risley says video captured by body-worn cameras is the first thing he turns to when a complaint is made against an officer. And he predicts all officers will wear body cameras in the future.

But Eugene O’Donnell, a professor of police studies at John Jay College, says that what works for some police departments might not be the right solution for Roosevelt Island. 

“Probably the only thing you’d be offering with a camera is a chance to stop gross abuses and misconduct rather than creating a culture where courtesy and service and professionalism were at the center of what was going on,” said O’Donnell. “So it’s sort my view, the backward approach to a problem.”

O'Donnell says recruitment, training and oversight are the first things that need to be addressed for Roosevelt Island’s Public Safety Department.

In the meantime, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation is getting ready to look for contractors to mount body cameras on its officers. It is unclear how soon that would happen.


Julianne Welby


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Comments [2]

Ruben Colon from Roosevelt Island, NY

To whom it may concern:

Be advised that one, John B. McManus, Director/Chief of the Public Safety Department (PSD) of Roosevelt Island, has today acted in a manner inconsistent with his position. Mr. McManus was unprofessional and insensitive when dealing with members of the general public.

He approached me, Ruben Colon, and my colleague, Michael Donnelly, in a belligerent manner. Be advised that we are representatives of a 25,000 member union in NYC, the New York City & Vicinity District Council of Carpenters (NYCDC). We are not street toughs or thugs. We are acting as professionals of our organization in exercising our rights under the US Constitution and Its First Amendment.

Further be advised, that we will not take kindly to threats from PSD or any other department in the exercise of these rights. Today we were threatened with a weapon by a resident of the island and our claims were not taken seriously by PSD. The NYPD eventually made an arrest in the incident.

Mr. McManus, not two hours after the incident, accused us of concocting the story. Instead he should have, as a professional, inquired as to the details, but instead resorted to belligerent behavior, profanities, and unsubstantiated accusations. This included threats to harass us via ticketing and even arrest.

We at the NYCDC are of the opinion, that Mr. McManus has not acted in the best interest of the PSD and at the very least should be reprimanded and instructed in proper etiquette when dealing with members of the general public.

We thank you in advance for your cooperation in this most unfortunate matter.

Rubén Colón: Representative
NYCDC Area Standards Dept.
Contact # : ( 917 ) 376 - 5537

Dec. 30 2013 12:55 PM
SKV from NYC

ALL officers of the law should wear these whenever on duty, agreeing to be recorded should be a condition of employment, and the recordings should be available to the public. We give these people huge authority and power over us; accountability should be part of the deal.

Stop-and-frisk and other police abuses would end immediately and the taxpayers would both be better protected and save millions paid out now in lawsuits against the few abusive cops who commit police brutality. Get the aggressive-force perps off the force -- it will help everyone.

Mar. 06 2013 02:16 PM

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