Bodycams haven’t lived up to promises of exposing police misconduct. One reason: The police decide what to release.

In the moments after a recent shooting in Times Square, New York City police officer Alyssa Vogel heard an officer yell, “There’s a baby.” Body camera footage shows her take off running, finding a 4-year-old girl bleeding from a stray bullet. Vogel quickly applied a tourniquet and helped her to an ambulance.

Vogel’s exemplary actions were highlighted on the @NYPDnews Twitter account last week. Meanwhile, an appeals court recently ruled that the NYPD must turn over a less-redacted version of body camera footage from the 2018 fatal shooting of Susan Muller, who was mentally ill, in her home. The police department has been fighting against releasing the video for years.

Days-old video released in one case; years of delays in another. That difference, civil liberties advocates say, is a problem.

In the years since Michael Brown’s 2014 death spurred protests and unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, politicians, advocacy groups and even cops have pushed for all officers in the 18,000 or so law enforcement agencies in the U.S. to wear small cameras to record their interactions with the public.

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