A statewide program to provide funding for local police departments to acquire body cameras was announced last year, following a string of fatal police encounters in Staten Island, Baltimore, Ferguson, and more recently, Texas.
New Jersey will allocate $2.5 million in criminal forfeiture funds to assist local police departments interested in utilizing body cameras. The program will pay for more than 5,000 devices and cover the costs for related equipment and upgrades to their computer system for archiving the camera footage.
While State Police have been utilizing dashboard recorders in trooper cars for a number of years, this will be the first time officers will wear cameras. The new body cameras will provide additional capacity to capture footage. Acting Attorney General, Hoffman said the program hopes to “promote transparency and mutual accountability of police and civilians.”
Hoffman has issued a statewide policy to promote the best practices and uniformity for proper use of the devices. The policy establishes foundational requirements but will allow individual departments to tailor policies and practices to their local needs. While the guidance and aid is anticipated to encourage statewide deployment of the body cameras, the choice to acquire them is left to each police department to decide on a voluntary basis.
Nationally, about 75 percent of police departments use body cameras, according a 2013 survey compiled for the Federal Justice Department. While New Jersey may have gotten off to a late start, over a dozen communities in the state have taken the initiative to outfit officers with the recording devices.
Trenton, New Jersey, has recently decided take advantage of state grants to equip all patrol officers with body cameras. The Trenton Council will be spending $234,786 on 150 cameras, half of which will be funded by the state. All patrol officers will be issued their own camera, and then detectives and other specialized units will utilize the pool of remaining devices.
Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson said, “So many times police are accused of doing things they say they don’t do. These cameras work both ways — it protects the citizens, it protects our police as well. It certainly gives a clear, concise depiction of what’s going on in the field every day.”
Body cameras have been hot topic nationwide, in wake of several deadly police interactions in the past few years. The devices will hold both officers and civilians accountable for their conduct and discourage misconduct on both sides.
Many situations arise where a citizen claims their misconduct was in response to an officer’s improper actions. With the help of body cameras, the court will be able to determine if the defendant’s behavior was in response to unlawful force and brutality or if they are just blaming the police for their inappropriate behavior.
If you have been involved in a situation where a police officer’s conduct was questionable or are facing charges for misconduct, you need an experienced defense attorney. Call the Law Office Leon Matchin for a free consultation at (732) 662-7658.