A young NYPD officer used his body camera to record a work place altercation with his lieutenant after his lieutenant yelled at him for being late and was physically aggressive. Although he went against the department’s policy, he was likely in accordance with state law.
Officer Christopher Schroeck, 28, turned on the body camera to record his lieutenant, Jeffery Gurley, in the lower Manhattan Public Service Area 4 stationhouse during a heated argument.
The body camera footage shows Gurley admitting that he put his hands on Shroeck’s camera, and pointing and yelling angrily at Shroeck. In the footage, Gurley explicitly tells Shroeck that he is not supposed to be filming him. Gurley also can be seen mocking Shroeck and imitating his gait. According to a source, he was comparing him to the animated cartoon character Shrek.
The incident breaks new ground on the use of body cameras and raises questions about when the technology can and cannot be used.
The NYPD’s Patrol Guide prohibits cops from activating their body cameras in nonenforcement situations and to film routine activities in department facilities, but the rule may not apply to Shroeck’s case.
A team of lawyers gave their opinions about the incident.
Accorrding to employment discrimination lawyer Douglas Wigdor, Gurley’s yelling gave Schroek good reason to turn on the camera.
“If we accept that the officer felt threatened, that could overcome the prohibition,” said Wigdor.
Wigdor also noted that even if Schroeck’s use of the camera violated the NYPD Patrol Guide, it was in line with New York state law. In a conversation, “you can record someone without their consent,” he said.
Jack Jaskaran, a retired NYPD captain and current lawyer weighed in as well. “While the policy prohibits recording, it does not prohibit recording when you feel threatened. If the lieutenant is engaging in physical behavior, he’s no longer a supervisor. He’s a threat, and it’s incumbent to document it.”
Derek Smith, another employment lawyer, questioned the unprofessional attitude of the senior officer. “The better question is, ‘Why was the supervisor acting this way?’ I would tell [the NYPD] to stop trying to divert the attention away from that.”
Others argued that technology develops new uses over time and that the laws must conform to it.
“It strikes me that technology gets introduced for one purpose and then it gets used for all kinds of unintended purposes, and I don’t know why that wouldn’t apply to the police,” said Peter Brill, a lawyer who has represented cops in disciplinary cases.
The video shows Gurley and Schroeck in the stationhouse’s Safe Horizons room, where domestic violence victims and juveniles are interviewed. That room happens to have no cameras, despite cameras being located elsewhere in the precinct.
“There’s no was reason to take him into a secluded room with no cameras,” said Jaskaran.
When Schroeck began filming, Gurley said, “Guess what — now you’re getting a CD [command discipline citation] for recording when you’re not supposed to be recording. That’s what you’re going to get a CD for. I hope that’s on camera.”
Gurley reached toward Schroeck, which prompted the younger officer to say, “Don’t put your hands on me, all right?”
According to The Daily News, Gurley and a sergeant named Lachard leveled Schroek with command disciplines for discourtesy, being off-post and not signing the patrol log.
A spokeswoman for the department said that the situation is currently under “internal review.”