New York prisons suspend use of body cameras after device catches fire ‘without warning’: DOC

The New York City Department of Corrections says it has suspended the use of body cameras after one of the devices caught fire, hospitalizing an officer.

The camera caught fire “without warning” while in use at the George R. Vierno Center on Rikers Island on Friday, causing an unidentified captain to suffer burns and smoke inhalation, DOC press secretary Annais Morales said in an emailed statement.

“The safety of our staff is paramount, and as a precautionary measure, I am removing all body-worn cameras from use while we investigate how and why this incident occurred,” said Commissioner Lynelle Maginley-Liddie.

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A department spokeswoman said the New York City Department of Corrections temporarily recalled more than 3,000 body-worn cameras after the camera caught fire and injured a corrections captain.

New York Daily News via Getty Images

The investigation into the 3,480 DOC cameras, identified as the Reveal Media D5 series, is expected to take one to two weeks. According to a DOC spokesman, DOC is contacting the camera manufacturer to determine how the incident occurred.

Reveal did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

In 2018, the NYPD suspended the use of some body-worn cameras after one exploded during use. An investigation into the incident found that the battery may have caught fire inside the camera, NBC New York reported at the time.

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The officer was staying at the George R. Vierno facility on Rikers Island when the incident occurred, as shown in the photo.

New York Daily News via Getty Images

The devices used by DOC are similar to those used by the NYPD – which reports the nation’s largest body-worn camera program – but are not the same type, an NYPD spokesperson confirmed to HuffPost.

The city’s correctional facilities have a long history of inmate abuse and neglect, resulting in the notorious Rikers Island complex being ordered closed by 2027 on safety and humanitarian grounds.

A federal monitor was also appointed to review the prisons following a 2015 civil rights lawsuit that alleged cruel and unusual punishment. This observer described DOC facilities last fall as increasingly “hazardous and unsafe” for both staff and those in custody.

The Department of Federal Observation assigned to oversee city prisons has been informed of the decision to temporarily remove body cameras, the DOC said Monday.

A spokesman said that “substantial surveillance continues to exist across all DOC facilities” with more than 12,400 security cameras operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week across all facilities.

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