November 30, 2021

New York City Releases Online Archive of Digitized Police Surveillance Footage From 1960s and 1970s

From the NY Daily News:

There is no sound, just a collection of black-and-white films featuring some of New York’s and the nation’s most important players.

There is the mayor, John Lindsey, in Harlem; the president, Jimmy Carter, in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Malcolm X with demonstrators in Brooklyn protesting segregation in construction hiring practices.

Behind the camera is the covert common denominator, the clandestine thread that weaves all the footage together — the NYPD.

For two decades, the department’s surveillance unit filmed everything from parades to protests, from the YWCA to the United Nations, during one of the most tumultuous eras in American history.

And, for the first time ever, New Yorkers can see what they saw.

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From the NYC Department of Records & Information Services

The Municipal Archives transferred the film from the NYPD photography unit in 2015 as part of a larger collection of photographic materials including glass, nitrate, acetate and polyester-base negatives and silver-gelatin prints. Many of these images are also available in the digital gallery.

The films were created by the NYPD photography unit. Staffed by police officers trained as both still and moving image photographers, the unit served all branches of the service. The film footage had been commissioned by the NYPD Bureau of Special Services and Investigations (BOSSI) to support their surveillance activities. Plainclothes police officers photographed some events clandestinely; others were filmed openly with movie-style cameras positioned next to police vehicles.

Not all of the footage is related to the NYPD’s surveillance activities. Some of the films provide straight-forward documentation of significant events. For example, the collection includes footage of President Richard Nixon walking behind Jacqueline Kennedy at the funeral for Robert F. Kennedy in June 1968.

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Direct to Video Collection

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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