Cherry Hill Police preps community for rollout of body-worn cameras

All officers in the Cherry Hill Police Department will begin wearing body cameras this autumn.

It looks like a small black box, barely measuring a little more than two inches in width and three inches in height. It weighs only a few ounces and features a small lens in the corner responsible for recording video footage at a 130-degree angle.

The small black box is Taser International’s Axon Body 2 camera, and later this fall, all officers in the Cherry Hill Police Department will be wearing them.

Cherry Hill police are preparing to deploy body-worn cameras for all members of the department in October. To prepare the community for a rollout, a meeting was held on Wednesday night to discuss the new technology and answer questions from the community.

The body cameras are being deployed after the police department conducted a pilot program for more than two years. The program allowed the police department to assess a variety of cameras from different manufacturers.

“Some of the clips weren’t adequate where the officers found the cameras were falling off them when they were going out in the street,” Police Chief William Monaghan said of other cameras the department tried. “Some of the cameras didn’t pick up footage or audio properly. We didn’t want to have something that was an inferior product.”

The police department ultimately decided to go with the Axon Body 2 camera, the same camera large agencies such as the Los Angeles Police Department and the Las Vegas Police Department use. Locally, Evesham Township Police Department and Willingboro Police Department also used the Axon Body 2 camera.

Monaghan said the community has been supportive of the new technology in meetings with groups leading up to Wednesday night.

“People understand the need for it, the police officers understand the need for it and the community understands it,” Monaghan said.

Some members of the community questioned how the cameras would be used upon deployment. The police department is working on a policy for how the cameras will be used. The policy will be based off the state Attorney General’s policy for body worn cameras.

Monaghan said the department wants the cameras to turn on every time an officer comes in contact with a civilian. However, there will be a number of exceptions in the policy, specifically dealing with having the cameras in school and hospital settings. Monaghan added there are some cases where a civilian may want to make an anonymous tip to an officer. In this case, an officer may articulate the civilian’s wishes in the recording and then turn off the camera.

“There’s some things we have to be sensitive to with the community as a whole,” Monaghan said.

The police department received a State of New Jersey Body Worn Camera Grant, a Department of Justice Body Worn Camera Grant and money from federal forfeited property to pay for the cameras. The department is entering into a five-year contract with Taser International. As part of the contract, Taser will upgrade the department’s cameras with its newest model in two and a half years.

The police department plans to have a limited deployment of the cameras in early October, with a full deployment of the cameras scheduled for late October. All officers will receive training on the cameras in the coming weeks. The police department will also speak further with the community about its policy on the cameras as it is finalized.