Police accountability project
NYU School of Law Policing Project
When we worked with the NYU School of Law Policing Project (PP) we knew it had to walk a fine line, partnering with both law enforcement and police reform advocates to strengthen policing through democratic governance. PP hired Spitfire to raise the visibility of its unique work as it wrapped up a first-of-its-kind public comment period on the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) body-worn camera policy and prepared to launch a companion effort in Los Angeles, and has continued to partner with Spitfire over the past three years on the issue. Thoughtful coverage exploring PP’s honest assessment of the pros and cons of law enforcement’s constant recording of civilians via body cameras has been featured on National Public Radio and in The New York Times. A Sunday Washington Post op-ed explored the complex issue of what a cost-benefit analysis of policing practices would look like and why it’s a good idea – and eventually, in response to the Policing Project’s counsel, guidance and media relations, body camera company Axon agreed not to put facial recognition technology in its cameras. No matter the audience, Spitfire is nimble enough to help our partners gain support from multiple sides of an issue and has the strategic know-how to take the conversation about that issue from a whisper to a roar.
Police body cameras, seen by some as a panacea, can quickly become tools of surveillance without protections in place. Spitfire also supported a report card project grading major police departments across the nation on how they limit body camera use and what they do with the footage they collect, earning national press coverage. This project challenged the dominant narrative that “innocent” people have nothing to hide and should have no problem with law enforcement collecting video, replacing it with a new belief that our right to privacy hasn’t kept up with technology and that we need a bill of digital rights. A year after the report cards were released, law enforcement departments still contact advocates to argue about their grades and to offer accommodations to better protect the rights of community members.