How cops and politicians neutralized bodycams, whose footage is now routinely kept secret by NYPD and other forces

Police have no right to privacy when executing their public duties, and bodycams were supposed to keep everyone honest and accountable: both the cops and those they were interacting with. In practice, the footage is routinely withheld to prevent the public challenging or even knowing about police misconduct, while it is quickly edited and filtered through friendly media to exonerate officers when the opportunity presents itself. At Pro Publica, Eric Umansky and Umar Farooq explore how police have undermined the promise of body cameras.

Yet without deeper changes, it was a fix bound to fall far short of those hopes. In every city, the police ostensibly report to mayors and other elected officials. But in practice, they have been given wide latitude to run their departments as they wish and to police — and protect — themselves. And so as policymakers rushed to equip the police with cameras, they often failed to grapple with a fundamental question: Who would control the footage? Instead, they defaulted to leaving police departments, including New York's, with the power to decide what is recorded, who can see it and when. In turn, departments across the country have routinely delayed releasing footage, released only partial or redacted video or refused to release it at all. They have frequently failed to discipline or fire officers when body cameras document abuse and have kept footage from the agencies charged with investigating police misconduct.

28 killings so far this year by NYPD officers, and you'll never see the footage of most of them. Why? You know why.