Thousands of body cameras used by the New York City police department were pulled from the streets Sunday morning after one of them exploded and “burst into flames” earlier in the day on Staten Island while an officer was wearing it, a senior law enforcement official told The Daily Beast.
The camera, a Vievu model LE-5, first began smoking, then exploded and fell to the ground and burned, the official said.
The suspension affects about 2,990 cameras being used by police officers in 15 out of city's 77 police precincts, as well as several other commands, authorities said. The NYPD has about 15,500 cameras deployed in the field and has plans to outfit all of its officers with cameras by the end of 2019.
The incident occurred around midnight outside a Staten Island police precinct. “[The camera] unexpectedly began to smoke and fell from his shirt to the ground,” the official said. “It then caught fire and was damaged.”
The officer was not injured, but the incident is a black eye for the new pilot program that was ordered by a federal judge in 2014 and the controversial contract with Vievu.
Following the incident, Police Commissioner James O'Neill issued an internal order suspending any use of the model LE-5 body cameras due to the “possible product defect.” The order said the police was removing cameras from the field out of an abundance of caution as it investigates the matter. The other styles of body cameras used by the NYPD are not affected as a part of the order and will remain in the field.
“There is the potential for the battery inside the camera to ignite,” the commissioner said. “The cause and scope of the defect are currently being investigated.”
In a statement, the NYPD said that all officers assigned LE-5 cameras were told to immediately remove the cameras and bring them back to their commands.
“The Department is in the process of collecting and removing the LE-5 cameras from the commands now,” the department said in the statement. “Nothing is more important than the safety of our officers, and equipping the NYPD with the best equipment is a paramount priority.”