Body cameras are coming to the Voorhees Township Police Department.
At its Jan. 12 meeting, the Voorhees Township Committee passed a resolution accepting a bid from the company Digital Ally in Lenexa, Kan., to provide the police department with compact wearable digital video systems for officers.
Voorhees Township administrator Larry Spellman said cameras are a result of the law signed by Gov. Christie in September that mandated cameras must be installed in police cars or all officers be equipped with cameras on their person during patrol.
The new state law included a mechanism for covering the cost of adding cameras to police cars by increasing the penalty of those convicted of driving while drunk by $25, but Spellman said the township determined it would be many tickets before the cost of installing cameras in the cars was fully recouped, so body cameras were the way to go.
“We decided it was cheaper to get the body cameras for each of the officers,” Spellman said.
Spellman said the cost of equipping the department’s roughly 50 officers with the cameras was about $38,000.
According to Spellman, it will take a few months before the department has the cameras, and some time after that to finalize policies regarding their use, which Chief Louis Bordi is working on with the state.
“Even if we had them in our officers’ hands today, we wouldn’t start using them until we get our policies in place,” Spellman said. “I know one of the things the state is looking at is can the camera data be OPRA-able (requested through the New Jersey Open Public Records Act), and just how and just what are the procedures for wearing them and turning them off.”
The cameras come at a time when police departments across the nation have be dealing with questions regarding the possible use of excessive force in high profile cases, such as the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
Digital Ally’s website markets the cameras as allowing police departments to “record video and optional audio from your own point of view wherever you need it” and helping them “protect your job and department” and increasing “the rate and speed of convictions.”
Spellman said the hope is that what is happening in Ferguson and other places can be avoided in Voorhees with cameras on every officer accurately recording events as they unfold, which could save the township money on lawsuits. He also said there was no question about police body cameras being the future.
“With a camera, there’s no second-guessing what happened,” Spellman said.
In other news:
• Committee approved the transfer of a consumption liquor license at 1031 Voorhees Drive.
• Edward Hale was reappointed to the Voorhees Township Environmental Commission. Hale was mistakenly left off the appointments made during the committee’s reorganization meeting. The Environmental Commission meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m.
• The next regular, non-workshop meeting of the Voorhees Township Committee is currently scheduled for Jan. 26.