Mandatory body cams for NJ police officers
On May 25, N.J. Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal issued a directive that all police officers in the state must wear body cameras while on duty effective June 1.
I would not be surprised if this becomes a nationwide policy in the not-so-distant future.
In his directive, Grewal wrote “there is consistent public demand for the release of BWC footage in the wake of critical incidents involving police use of force. This footage provides objective evidence of what occurred and plays a crucial role in the public discourse around police accountability. BWCs also serve as a powerful deterrent to misconduct by both the police and members of the public interacting with police.”
The public will be able to see videos.
The state’s BWC policy states, “Any agency receiving a subpoena, court order, or request pursuant to the Open Public Records Act, or the common law right to know, for a BWC recording shall, within one business day of receipt of such subpoena, court order, or request, and before complying with it, provide notice to the County Prosecutor, or to the Division of Criminal Justice where the recording was made by a state-level law enforcement agency. Such notice shall state clearly the deadline by which a response must be made.”
According to Hammonton Police Department’s (HPD) Facebook post, HPD officers have been utilizing body worn cameras (BWCs) since March 2016.
According to the post, “Body-Worn Cameras are certainly a powerful tool that can assist police and at the same time give the community a better understanding of what happened during an encounter. We do know that no technology is a perfect answer to all situations; therefore cameras should not be considered the only source of detail recollection. Body-worn cameras have limitations that need to be understood and considered when evaluating the recordings.
“Body-Worn Camera footage is similar to footage from a cell phone camera. The devices will be mounted to an officer’s uniform. The cameras will point away from the officer and will capture images in the camera’s field of vision. Citizens who interact with police officers will be recorded on body camera footage.”
Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
I think the more information available to the public, the better.
Most people know that I enjoy a good Open Public Records Act request.
And informed electorate is better off than an ignorant one.
And hopefully these cameras will help improve the levels of trust between residents and police.
According to a report on bja.ojp.gov, “Camera deployment cannot replace community policing. Expectations about the impact of BWCs must be reasonable, and agencies should be proactive in their discussions about the technology.”
I hope it will keep less than perfect police officers a little more in line and it will hopefully keep less than honest individuals in line as well.
This way all interactions are recorded and a non-biased recording will exist if needed for court cases.
Will there be tampering in some police departments? Of course. Human nature cannot be changed.
I believe the majority of recordings will be of a beneficial nature rather than detrimental.
My concern is maintenance. Body cameras will need to be replaced. Footage will need to be kept. Our HPD should be fine because they currently have a police chief who understands and values technology.
But other more impoverished communities may not have the fiances to support these efforts.
Let’s see how this next step in modern policing goes. Hopefully, police and residents will embrace this use of technology.
Gina Rullo is the editor-in-chief of The Hammonton Gazette.