Former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly—who once warned against police officers being equipped with body-cameras—is now coming out in support of the recording technology. Kelly’s reversal, he noted on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, was prompted by the video in South Carolina that caught police officer Michael Slager fatally shooting Walter Scott.
“It has changed my mind,” Kelly told host George Stephanopoulos. “Because we have to assume that this officer would not act the way he did if in fact he had a body camera that was recording.”
Prior to the video’s emergence last week, local reports of the shooting appeared to largely rely on the officer’s account alone: Slager told authorities he had “felt threatened” by Scott and defended his actions as nothing more than a traffic stop gone wrong. The video’s eventual publication, which clearly showed Slager shooting Scott in the back eight times as he attempted to flee, quickly lead to his arrest and murder charge.
“I think it is a game changer,” Kelly said of the video. “What you will see is a movement now by many more police departments to go to cameras. There are issues with it, there are problems with it, but this trumps all of those problems.”
As head of the NYPD, Kelly was a fierce defender of the department’s controversial use of stop-and-frisk tactics and credited the program as a major factor in the city’s declining crime rate. He also argued outfitting all officers with body-cameras would only thwart their abilities to perform their jobs properly. “I think we have to tread carefully in this area,” he said in September. “I think cameras will make police officers hesitate and that can be a good thing or a bad thing.”