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The Failed Promise of Police Body Cameras

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The Failed Promise of Police Body Cameras

U.S. taxpayers spent millions to fund what was supposed to be a revolution in accountability. What went wrong?

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By Eric Umansky

Dec. 13, 2023

When Barbara and Belvett Richards learned that the police had killed their son, they couldn’t understand it. How, on that September day in 2017, did their youngest child come to be shot in his own apartment by officers from the New York Police Department?

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Miguel Richards, who was 31, grew up in Jamaica and had moved to New York about a year earlier after coming to the United States through a work-study program. His father’s friend gave him a job doing office work, and he rented a room in the Bronx. But he started to struggle, becoming reclusive and skipping days of work. His mother, with whom he was particularly close, pleaded with him to return to Jamaica. “It’s as if I sensed something was going to happen,” she says. “I was calling him, calling him, calling him: ‘Miguel, come home. Come home.’”

His parents knew he had never been violent, had never been arrested and had never had any issues with the police. What details they managed to gather came from the Bronx district attorney: Richards’s landlord, who hadn’t seen him for weeks, asked the police to check on him. The officers who responded found Richards standing still in his own bedroom, holding a small folding knife. And 15 minutes later, they shot him.

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