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Three NJ cities to get police body cameras

Glenn Townes | 5/4/2015, 11:42 a.m.
In the wake of a number of national incidents involving law enforcement agents and unarmed citizens—particularly African American men, officials ...

In the wake of a number of national incidents involving law enforcement agents and unarmed citizens—particularly African American men, officials from the three largest cities in the state last week announced plans to enact legislation that would outfit and ultimately mandate police officers wear body cameras during routine patrols.

At an informal press conference last Friday in Newark, the mayors of Newark, Jersey City and Paterson announced that they have issued request for proposals (RFP) to dozens of vendors to submit bids to provide the equipment and/or services for the multi-million dollar undertaking. Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Paterson Mayor Jose Torres have all advocated the widespread use of police body cameras since last summer—following questionable police related incidents nationally and in their respective cities. “The public operated differently, as do police officers... {especially} when they know they're being videotaped,” said Fulop of Jersey City. He added, “The public and police officers have the right to be protected..{police body cameras will provide the additional protection}.” A senior official with the Jersey City Police Department said all patrol officers will be required to wear the cameras.

Dash cameras are outfitted to thousands of patrol cars across the state, however, the maintenance and operation of the equipment is expensive. For example, Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson said about two dozen police patrol cars are equipped with dash cameras, however, nearly all of them are inoperable—due to budget cuts and a lack of resources to repair them. Earlier this year, Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson and state Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) spearheaded efforts to form the Police Body Camera Implementation Task Force.

Lastly, while most law enforcement officials nationally as well in the three New Jersey cities targeted, laud the prospect of rigging officers with full body cameras, some additional clarifications and security measures are needed. “Body cams should be part of a locked system in order to maintain the security {and accuracy} of the video,” said Ed Caldwell, a former police office in New York. “Original police vehicle cams would activate automatically and could not be turned off and {the footage} could not be altered because of the software.”

Finally, the state Department of Community Affairs approved the joint purchasing plan in December. Proposals from vendors are due back to the Newark, Jersey City and Paterson administrators by May 14. Officers in the three cities could be outfitted with body cameras as early as October.