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Public Advocate James Pushes NYC Hard On Police Body Cameras

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Compelled by video of a police chokehold death and the lack of such evidence in the fatal shooting of a Missouri teenager, a top New York City official Thursday intensified her push to equip the city's 35,000 officers with body-worn cameras.

On Thursday, Public Advocate Letitia James held a demonstration of the cameras, which she said would protect residents from misconduct and police officers from false allegations, all while saving the city millions of dollars in legal costs.

"We've got a tool at our disposal used in other jurisdictions that in fact can improve police-community relations and the question is: why is it not being used in New York City?" James told reporters, including CBS 2's Marcia Kramer.

There are different versions of the body camera.

Public Advocate Letitia James Shows Off Police Body Cams

Some companies are developing software that automatically turn the cameras on when an officer turns on the siren, James said.

The public advocate showed off two body cameras that she said record both audio and video, can get four to eight hours of record time on one charge and can store 54 hours of record time.

James said the devices are waterproof, usually weigh about three ounces and are the size of a playing card. A unique identification can also be created for each camera and officer.

The body-worn cameras she demonstrated sell for $450 to $900.

James proposed the cameras earlier this month, in the fervent aftermath of Eric Garner's chokehold death on Staten Island on July 17 and Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug. 9.

She wants police to start a pilot program covering officers in areas with high crime and misconduct complaint rates.

James pointed to the city of Rialto, California, which she said saw an 88 percent drop in complaints against its police department after introducing body cams.

James said the city spent $152 million last year on misconduct-related judgments and settlements.

"If we were to go forward on a pilot program it would cost taxpayers around $5 million to equip about 15 percent of the police force in the city," James told WCBS 880's Ginny Kosola. "If we were to equip body cameras on police officers citywide it would cost around $32 million."

Patrick Lynch, president of the powerful Patrolmen's Benevolent Association police union, has said he wants to see evidence of the cameras' effectiveness.

He said the city spends so much on legal costs because it "refuses to fight even the most ridiculous and baseless of the claims.''

Mayor Bill de Blasio is reviewing the program proposal, James said.

"It's a win-win for the community, improving police-community relations, providing transparency and accountability and it will exonerate police officers," James said.

The cameras are already used by police in San Diego, New Orleans and Oakland. There are pilot programs in Detroit, San Francisco and Los Angeles, a program initiated when NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton ran that department, Kramer reported.

Meanwhile, officers in Atlantic City have also started wearing body cameras.

About five officers a shift will be equipped with the devices.

Deputy Chief Joseph Nolan told The Press of Atlantic City the department wants people to believe in the officers and the officers want the truth.

The 20 cameras are split among three shifts, Nolan said. Each officer will use a camera for two weeks, then another officer will get it.

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