On Dec. 17, the Senate approved major legislation authored by Sen. Joe Cryan, Sen. Shirley Turner and Sen. President Steve Sweeney that would provide state funding to outfit police officers in New Jersey with body cameras.
The bill, S-3089, would provide a supplemental appropriation of $59 million to the Department of Law and Public Safety for the purchase of body-worn cameras and related services by state, county and municipal law enforcement agencies.
“Body cameras can help increase public trust by providing recorded evidence of interactions with law enforcement that can help resolve any disputes,” said Sen. Cryan (D-Union), who served as Union County Sheriff. “As a former sheriff, I can tell you I referred to body cameras for footage that cleared officers. They are a verifiable way to prove that the vast majority of law enforcement officers do their job and do it well.”
“In recent years, body cameras have become a valuable tool for transparency, exposing instances of police misconduct and helping to hold officers accountable,” said Sen. Turner (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “They also protect officers against false accusations and reduce the legal costs associated with excessive force lawsuits, which are ultimately paid for by taxpayers. Body cameras will help to create safer communities, and both officers and civilians will benefit greatly from rebuilding trust between police officers and the communities they have sworn to serve and protect.”
“The statewide use of bodycams will be a significant step in achieving reforms that improve the criminal justice system and make real progress in social justice,” said Sen. Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “The public and the police are protected by having body cameras. They help safeguard the officers and the citizens they interact with by producing an accurate record of their interactions. A picture is worth a thousand words.”
The funding bill would provide the financing for local law enforcement agencies that don’t have the resources to outfit their officers with this equipment at a time when they are confronting the demands of the continuing public health emergency, Senator Sweeney noted.
Under the bill, law enforcement agencies would be required to store the data from the cameras using a tamper-proof evidence management system that has the ability to securely share data while maintaining an audit trail and chain of custody.
The Legislature previously voted to approve – and Governor Murphy signed into law – two bills, S-1163/A-4271, requiring uniformed officers to wear a body camera while acting in performance of their official duties, and S-101/A-4312, to regulate the use of body cameras worn by law enforcement officers. Both laws were sponsored by Senator Turner and Senator Nia Gill.