The NYCLU conducted an exhaustive inquiry into the policies of each police department. Through our interaction, we have found that the White Plains Police Department:
- Generally was responsive to our public information requests, providing most of the requested documents and policies – or at least acknowledgements of the absence of such documents – after an initial appeal.
- Incorporated several detailed examples of typical encounters directly into its policy on field interviews, which can help illustrate complex legal standards more clearly. However, one of those examples includes a missed opportunity to address some of the most serious problems with so-called “consent searches,” where people often don’t know that they have a legal right to refuse being searched.
- In response to our request for policies related to language access and on interacting with people with limited English proficiency, only provided us with a provision on using a translation line for 911 calls – and that provision refers to “Asian” as a language. It’s not clear if the Department has additional policies governing procedures for in-person or other interactions where there may be language barriers.
- Was one of the few departments to have a policy on the use of body-worn cameras at the time we filed our records request. The policy gives a lot of discretion to officers to determine when or whether to activate the cameras, and it doesn’t clearly limit an officer’s ability to review footage of incidents related to misconduct investigations before first completing any initial reports or providing official statements.
Policy Spotlight: Body Worn Cameras
With the right policies that maximize police accountability and minimize the potential for officer interference, body cameras have the potential to build trust between communities and the police. Policies that view body cameras as just another tool for evidence collection miss the mark and do not justify the substantial cost of these devices. Departments like White Plains need to remember why so many advocates called for the adoption of body-worn cameras in the first place—namely to increase transparency in police encounters and to further accountability. Body camera policies should set clear standards for when cameras must be turned on, including for all investigative and enforcement encounters. The White Plains policy ultimately appears to leave those decisions to the officer’s judgement. Policies must establish consequences for noncompliance and should provide for external oversight and auditing. And departments must recognize that these recordings cannot be kept secret and provide the public—and in particular, people who are subjects of recordings—a clear mechanism for accessing footage
You can learn more about the policies by clicking the cards below.
Documents received by July 2016.