Weekly Round-Up September 2nd, 2014

Pilot Program to Equip NYPD Officers with Body Cameras:

  • In recent months, the cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have mounted pressure on officials to consider measures that would cultivate a more positive dynamic between police officers and civilians.  One proposal has been to require police officers to wear body cameras.  This would help to provide evidence of what was going on before, during, and after any kind of interaction between police and members of the community.
  • City Public Advocate Letitia James proposed a pilot program aimed at this cause.   She proposed that officers in high-crime precincts should be equipped with a body camera.  The cameras would be about the size of a pager and they would cost between $400 and $900 each. Equipping each officer on patrol with a camera would cost around $32 million. Currently, the city spends roughly $152 million a year on settlements related to police misconduct.  In places like New Orleans and Missouri, where the body cameras are used by police, there has been a decline in civil law suits brought against police for issues regarding misconduct.
  • Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said that a pilot program would begin with about 50 officers.  The pilot program will cost approximately $5 million.
  • District Judge Shira Schiendlin had ordered the NYPD to start a similar program in 2012.  Her idea was to equip officers in the boroughs with the highest incidents of stop-and-frisk rates with a camera.
  • The current measure announced by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton will serve 2 purposes.   It will serve as a check on the behavior of police officers and it will also serve as a safeguard for officers, because it can help to exonerate them when they are falsely accused of misconduct.
  • The cameras have also helped to dismiss cases against civilians who were falsely accused in some way by police.  To read more about this, click here. (Wall Street Journal and New York Post)


Asylum for Domestic Abuse:

  • On Tuesday, August 26, 2014, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), the highest immigration administrative body in the nation, found that domestic violence victims may be eligible for asylum from their native countries. The decision stems from Aminta Cifuentes’ migration to Missouri in 2005 from Guatemala to escape from her abusive husband who burned and beat her, raped her, and followed her and their two children whenever they tried to escape to another Guatemalan city.
  • To qualify for refugee status, the immigrant must posses a “well-founded fear of persecution” based on race, nationality, religion, political opinion or membership in a “particular social group.” The BIA’s decision places married women of Guatemala who cannot leave their abusive relationships into the category of a “member in a particular social group.” Currently, the decision narrowly applies to only women of Guatemala and it is unclear what impact this will have on the immigration cases currently pending. While it may be years before Ms. Cifuentes’ case is finalized due to a heavy backlog of 375,000 cases, domestic violence can now be seen as a basis for asylum and can potentially be applied to other countries in the future. To read the entire BIA opinion, click here.


The NFL and Domestic Violence:

  • This past February, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, made the news for striking his then-girlfriend and dragging her unconscious body off an elevator in an Atlantic City hotel. Following this incident, the NFL suspended Rice for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy for the first two games of the 2014-2015 season and fined him $529,411.24.
  • The NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, received negative feedback for this decision because most penalties for violating drug policies would be stricter than those for domestic violence. After initially defending his decision, Goodell wrote a letter to all the NFL team owners this past week stating that he fell short of enforcing the NFL’s mission of integrity on and off the field. The letter went on to say that the NFL will provide services and education for its players to avoid incidents of domestic violence. The Commissioner has also amended the penalties for domestic violence: a six game suspension for the first incident and a lifetime ban for any subsequent incidents. The first test of the new policy comes as San Francisco 49ers player Ray McDonald was arrested this weekend for felony domestic assault for striking his pregnant girlfriend.